Now that the pace of technology innovation means things change between blinks of your eyes, an unintended consequence is that some fairly recent songs have been rendered obsolete (and not just the tech that delivers them).
It's not a problem when the ditty is intended to be nostalgic. "Oh the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin' down the street..." was written long after the last telegram was delivered by a horse-drawn carriage, so the song still worked. The unintentional nostalgia of Sonny & Cher's 1963 drone "The Letter" sort of lets us somewhat understand the intention of writing a breakup letter to a lover via, gasp, a pen and paper. The songs we all sing on the holidays still have their umph even though nobody reads by candelight, or travels by sleigh anymore.
But I think the technology in songs is getting obsolete faster than ever before.
For instance, The Buggles' 1982 hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" is about as technically current to us as a song about Renaissance ruffles would have been to them.
I mean, come on now, but radio? That's not a technology that means music to most kids today beyond a megaphone for their parents' sports talk and political rants. It's like singing about car gearboxes killing buggy whips; to anyone born after the song kicked off MTV -- that means the oldest are 25 now, by the way -- singing a lyric like "put our faith in VTR" is meaningless gibberish.
"Oh, I hate your answering machine," snarled The Replacements' Paul Westerberg in 1984, as he waxed poetic about leaving a message for his lover in a strange, distant time before a cellphone, text message or IM might have broken through the logjam. Annie Golden's "Hang Up the Phone" (heard on the Sixteen Candles movie soundtrack that same year) had the same lament, only this time the telephone line was busy, and call waiting had yet to be invented. Forget the silly 80s headbands and ripped clothes...she used a rotary phone, and then danced past pay phones on the street.
It's hard to relate to the emotional content of these songs when the technology involved is so old, foreign, or seems downright silly.
How about Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator?" That's like having a pocket toaster oven to most folks these days, isn' it? The 8-bit beeps and oops are familiar only because Beck and others have used them as art rock sound effects. I think Kraftwerk was singing about the sense of control (or robotic unconsciousness, as their "live" performances illustrated), but what's so empowering about "I'm adding...and subtracting" to an audience used to possessing more power on their handheld devices than NASA had with the computers its used to launch rockets to the moon?
Like the musical theatre of The Music Man, some of this obsolescence is intentional.
"The record keeps playing the same old song," sings Good Charlotte in 2006, even though listening to a record is about as familiar to its fans as reading a parchment proclamation nailed to a door. Nickelback sang about someone being "Far Away" that same year, as if jet travel had never been invented. I wonder if this faux outdatedness works or not.
I'm only one Dim Bulber, tho. What songs have I missed? What songs are destined for obsolescence next year?