#FridayFlash: Pop


by Tony Noland


I wanna be a billionaire so freaking bad,
Buy all the things I never had

I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen

Dennis turned the radio off. "Sean," he said, "if I hear that song one more time I'm going to put a bullet in your brain."

"Don't be an ass."

"I'm just giving you fair warning."

Sean lowered his magazine. "And how am I responsible for what they play on the radio?"

"You picked the station."

"So pick a different station. Just not that goddamn classic rock oldies stuff."

"And what's wrong with classic rock?"

"Oh for Lord's sake, Dennis, you get upset at hearing a pop tune for the third time. What do they play on those classic rock stations but the same damned songs over and over? Their whole playlist is about a hundred songs in daily rotation. You've heard every one of them at least a thousand times."

"And every one is a fantastic song that has stood the test of time. That's why they are classics. It's not like this pop crap, here today and gone tomorrow, bands you've never heard of playing shitty music that is only worth hearing once anyway."

"So you think I wanna be a billionaire is a shitty song?"

"I think it has no redeeming social value."

Sean turned in his seat to face Dennis. "That is the most pompous, fatuous, pseudo-intellectual thing I have ever heard you say."

"Well, I'm sorry you're disturbed by the truth when faced with it."

"And I've heard you talk out of your ass more than any man should have to stand, too, so that's really saying something, Dennis. What the hell does that mean, 'redeeming social value'? Did you hear that phrase on one of your TV talk shows and decide to try it out for yourself?"

"It means, did you even listen to the lyrics of that song? Really listen? Do you even understand what the song is saying?"

"Yeah, he's says he wants to be a billionaire so freaking bad. Unless there's some deep subtext that I'm missing, I'd interpret that to mean that he wants to be a billionaire. It seems pretty straightforward, Dennis."

"No, it's not straightforward. He says he wants to be a billionaire and have everything that goes with it, but in the whole song, he never even says word one about how he's going to get the money. Shit, I want to be a billionaire, too, but I'm working for my money. This guy? He's just sittin' on his ass doin' nothing but saying, 'I want, I want, I want'. What kind of message does that send? Kids today, they listen to that song and they think that all you have to do in life is just want and somebody's gonna give it to you. What does that do to people's work ethics?"

"For Christ's sake, Dennis..."

"I'll tell you what it does, it screws 'em up! All this pop crap, you listen to this for an hour and your brain turns to mush. You start to think the world owes you a living, that whatever you want - money, success, women, happiness, whatever - that whatever you want, the world is just gonna leave at your doorstep tied up in a ribbon, like it was a basket of fruit. You got a whole generation that's gettin' more screwed up every day, and it's because their music convinces them that it's OK to just sit around and do nothing to better themselves, to just want to be a billionaire but not get off their ass, to be caught in a bad romance and not dump the guy, to cling to 'I just haven't met you yet' instead of having a realistic understanding of relationships. Maybe you don't care about what music teaches young people, but I do!"

"And when you were a kid, Dennis, I suppose you wanted to go live in an octopus' garden, right? You wanted to give her every inch of your love, you wanted to come sail away?"

"Screw you, Sean, you are deliberately not understanding me."

"Or did you wish that you had Jesse's girl? Or maybe you just wanted to come on Eileen?"

"This conversation is over."

"Of course it's over, because you're being ridiculous. Pop music is supposed to be new and different, its very nature is to offer the same old universal themes in new ways. Love, sex, money, heartbreak, ambition, cars, whatever - of course there's nothing new in those desires because people are people. The point you aren't getting is that you listen to pop music to be exposed to the unfamiliar, to a new twist on an old story. Because it's new, it makes you think about the music, the lyrics, not just sit back and have it on as background noise to be ignored. Dennis, we've got hours yet before the job; I'm not gonna sit here with the radio off and listen to you breath just because you're an old fart who gets a rash at music you haven't already heard ten thousand times." Sean reached over and pushed the button.

I wanna be a billionaire so freaking bad,
Buy all the things I never had...

He picked up his magazine. Dennis moved his right hand up to his shoulder holster, unstrapped it and rested his palm on the butt of his Glock.

Sean rolled his eyes and changed the station.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Funny, I agree with how bad pop music is, and at all the bad lessons it teaches!

    Excellent work.

  2. Yes, pop music is really getting so bad. I read a tweet from someone that said, "I want to be a billionaire really bad" and didn't realize it was a lyric to a song!

    Please forgive an edit suggestion: In 13th paragraph after opening lyrics, "your" should be "you're."

    Great dialogue!

  3. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in
    1974. It's a scientific fact."
    Adam B @revhappiness

  4. I have had a very close conversation about pop music with my children. Your story made me chuckle because it hit so close to home. Maybe I'm getting old. Smart and realistic dialogue here and I liked that you made them coworkers. Entertaining read.

  5. Oh my gosh, I've had this same debate...sans the gun. :-) I think everybody has, which is what makes this story really work. Well done!

  6. So old songs are about seducing women and new ones are about attaining material wealth without work, eh? Sounds about right to me. I'll stick with the classics station as well. I like how you construct the argument between the characters, and of course, settle it perfectly.

  7. oh dear I find myself largely in agreement with dennis...

    ""I think it has no redeeming social value."
    is a wonderful line I shall use the next time I'm having this argument with some whippersnapper

    marc nash

  8. I'm still laughing. Classic rock? Nothing better. Music began to die when disco hit the scene. Yes, I am an old fart.

    Just love the dialogue. And the gun to settle it.

    Great story, Tony. Love it.

  9. Great work Tony, and something we can all relate to in some way or another, most of us on both sides. I can't stand the music my kids listen to, but my parents couldn't stand the music I listened to either, which is what makes it an ongoing argument. I'm a classic rock girl myself, but there was a time when that classic rock was called pop. ;)

  10. To be honest, I hate that song too. Perhaps not as much as the guy in the story. I'm all for classic rock. Led Zeppelin all the way here, followed by some gorgeous Leonard Cohen songs...ahhhh, anyway, great story and characters as always Tony. You really do have a gift for creating realistic dialog.

  11. Tony, I love it. From one old fart still trying to keep up with the scene, and it 'aint easy. References to Bad Romance and I wanna be a Billionaire, cracked me up. And especially Led Zeppelin.

    Great job portraying the generation gap!

  12. Good story. Lots of fun. The dialog was quite good throughout. I have to admit, I have no idea what this billionaire song is--I avoid pop music whenever I can.

  13. Bloody brilliant. My husband and I have this SAME argument every Sat. in the car. he's a huge fan of Lady Gaga, while I'd rather listen to my playlist of 70s and 80s classics. But yeah, you're right. the messages of yesterday are the same as today. It's just a NEW kind of bullshit. All that matters is opinion.

    I've yet to threaten my husband with a glock.

  14. I don't think pop music is any worse now than it has ever been. To quote Sturgeon's Law: "Yes, 90% of it is crap, but 90% of everything is crap."

    I've never actually had this conversation with anyone, since my family and friends listen to jazz, classical, country, talk radio, classic rock, eighties hits and the like. No one in my cohort listens to pop music. Except me. Sometimes.

    Thanks for the sharp eye, Marisa. I fixed it.

  15. I eat more popcorn than corn. I wonder of farm critics look down on me.

    Amusing exchanges of dialogue, Tony. I'm a little relieved I pay so little attention to lyrics. High and low artistic music so seldom offers as much as Stravinsky's instrumentals - though I do love me some Queen.

  16. Cute story Tony and nice dialogue. I'm with Deanna - i hate much of the current music but my parents hated my music when i was young. So probably since Elvis Presley came onto the scene parents have been lamenting the music "those darn kids" are listening to ;-)

  17. I have "If I Had a Million Dollars" running through my head. To David Gilmour's voice. I should seek help. >.>

  18. So that's a lyric from a current song huh? Shows what I know. The funniest part is settling the argument with a Glock.

    I agree with you that pop music as a whole isn't any better or worse than it's ever been.

  19. Wow, I didn't think he really had a gun! Sounds to me like Dennis recently got dumped by a younger woman. You do story in dialogue well. :)


  20. Were you in the car when I was complaining to my roommate about the billionaire song? Because seriously, Dennis and I made the same argument about its lack of values. To bad he doesn't like Motown and 60's music. Then we could be BFFs.

  21. So much to love here and I think you're right ... pop music has always been the same. Nothing much changes but the names and instruments...

  22. All hail old fart rock is what I have to say!
    Nice one Tony (and I loved the bit with the gun at the end!)

  23. There are several genres of music I feel the same about, but rather than cause a holster emptying conversation let me just say I loved this story. You really nailed it. Oh and BTW some so -called "songwriters really need to just stop and let someone else take over

  24. I really like this one. The message was strong but there was a good forward momentum to the story. Informative without being preachy. Great job.

  25. I'm really glad this dialogue worked so well for everyone! Thanks for reading!

  26. Enjoyed this a lot, especially the part about the Glock!

  27. Brilliant - fantastically written - I'm sure I've had a conversation like this in the past

  28. That was a real Sunday morning gem to read. My hangover and I say thank you.

  29. I think Dennis must have missed his meds. ;)

    Enjoyed that, Tony.

  30. It's interesting to read a story that is mostly dialogue and how you get out ideas not through the narrator but through characters.

    And for the record, I generally hate pop music too but for different reasons.

    *sticks up his metal horns*

  31. And the guy singing the lyrics made a billion singing them... :)

  32. Great story, Tony, and such a great slice of contemporary life betwixt the generations. Yeah, I love classic rock, too, but even more I love all the Brit Boy Bands -- give me Keane, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, RadioHead... best summer in my old fart life was 3 years ago when I caught Coldplay AND Radiohead two nights in a row. Heaven... Peace....

  33. Hat's off to you for creating a solid picture of the situation and characters through a story mostly made up of dialogue. Great that we don't know who they are and where they are going - the presence of a gun in the car gives a hint though. The tone of the ending is spot on too. great stuff.

  34. Some arguments are best settled with firearms.

    The designated hitter rule comes to mind.

  35. Absolutely hilarious! The dialogue is brilliant. I hate that f-ing song and turn it off every time it comes on. Great job this week, Tony!

  36. Sean has convinced me to give pop music the benefit of the doubt. Nice piece.


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