A little girl was helping her mother bake brownies the other day when she began singing "Always" by Atlantic Starr. This is a beautiful love song about marriage, family and happiness, and to hear a 9-year-old sing it from memory was my cue to pay tribute to the resurgence of good taste in pop music.
You see, "Always" was the undisputed number one song in the country last week. Alvin Jones, a disc jockey for radio station WHUR, says it is also the wedding song of the summer and the song most listeners want dedicated to their loved ones.
"Sing it again," I asked the girl. "I want to write about this song."
"You are going to write about music?" she said excitedly. "Then write about 'Head to Toe.' "
I was dumbfounded. Could she really mean that song by Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, which is the kind of music that Allan Bloom, professor of social thought at the University of Chicago, says is rotting the minds of our youth?
"I like 'Head to Toe' better," she said. Then, with an apparent attitude change that requires one to place hands on hips, she began her rendition.
"It started with a little kiss on our way home," she sang. "We were in for a surprise . . . . Who would have known . . . that we would become lovers . . . . As friends, we were so tight . . . . I can't help myself because it feels so right . . . . "
Hold it! Could Bloom be right?
I hate to even repeat what he says about rock music in his book, "The Closing of the American Mind," but for a while, I began to wonder.
"The words implicity and explicitly describe bodily acts that satisfy sexual desire and treat them as its only natural and routine culmination for children who do not have the slightest imagination of love, marriage or family," Bloom writes. "This has a much more powerful effect than does pornography on youngsters, who have no need to watch others do grossly what they can so easily do themselves."
Say it ain't so, child.
"What I like about 'Head to Toe' the most is the beat," the little girl said. "There is also a nice guitar section somewhere in the middle . . . . "
So far, so good.
"Now, for the lyrics . . . ," she sighed.
"The first part, where it says we were on our way home and started to kiss . . . . Well, if I found someone I really liked, I'd dedicate that part to him . . . .
"As far as the second part, I really don't know what she's saying -- but it's got a good dance beat . . . . "
Nobody ever said the little girl was dumb. But was she telling the truth?
Bloom would have us believe otherwise.
"Picture a 13-year-old boy sitting in the living room of his family home doing his math assignment while wearing his Walkman headphones or watching MTV . . . ," he writes. "A pubescent child whose body throbs with orgasmic rhythms, whose feelings are made articulate in hymns to the joys of onanism or the killing of parents, whose ambition is to win fame and wealth in imitating the drag queen who makes the music. In short, life is made into a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy . . . . "
Now I was thoroughly confused, not knowing which was worse -- the Cult Jam or Bloom's book.
Help me, child.
"Well, I really like the lyrics on 'Always' best because they are so touching," she said, hands falling from hips, sweet little smile replacing the Cult Jam smirk.
"See, the boy sings to the girl, 'Girl, you are to me all that a woman should be, and I dedicate my life to you . . . . Alllwaaays,' " she sang softly.
"It's a slow song," she said. "for people who are married, or have boyfriends and girlfriends. Here's the girl's part, 'A love like yours is great, it must have been saved long ago, and I know you'll stay this way for allllwaaays.'
"And then they sing together, 'And we both know that our love will grow, for alllwaays.' "
I had heard enough. This pop music thing just wasn't as cut and dried as I -- or Bloom -- had made it out to be. But one thing's for sure, it's a whole lot easier to cope with the Cult Jam when there are also songs like Atlantic Starr's "Always."