The 90s had a very distinct musical sound. If you know it, you can hear it coming from miles and miles away, and it is very possible you have been informed by its arrival by means of a posted timetable and realtime updates through social media. Which is to say, it is impossible to mistake a 90s song for anything else. You hear those first few notes, and instantly any doubt has been removed as to the nature of what you are hearing.
This process is somewhat aided by the fact that many 90s songs were self-contained units that did exactly one thing, and that was the thing they did. Indeed, there were musical acts whose whole production were exactly one thing – that’s you, Vengaboys – and even entire genres whose only purpose were to refine one single core element to its purest form – boy bands come to mind.
These were not subtle trends. Those were not subtle times.
This brings us to the song so eloquently mentioned in the title. There are words that could be applied it; “cultural sensitivity”, “careful exploration of historical themes” or “character development” are not among these. In fact, if we were to summarize the song, it would go like this: there is oontzing, there is the phrase “I believe in the power of American Natives” repeated an untold number of times, and a few generic phrases which are related to a very general stereotype of Native Americans (the particular choice of the wording “untamed people” does not help). If you are looking to learn more about the historical context of this particular group of people, then this is not the place to find it.
The song does not even work as a vote of confidence to Native Americans. Despite explicitly stating that it believes in their power, it is phrased in such a way that anyone listening immediately understands who the real target audience is. Which is to say, not Native Americans.
This vritique might seem overly harsh, considering the fact that it is an utterly generic dance song which makes no pretentions to be anything but a bit of oontz oontz oontzing. This is the kind of genre where the affordances are such that you can put in just about any trope whatsoever and get a song out of it. Analyzing it on the level of words will only go so far, before running smack dab into the conditions of production. There are hard limits to hermeneutics, and we have poked them.
This is an interesting thing to have done.
The disconnect between words and communication is not particular to this one song. It is a common feature of modern communication – particularly online communication, where irony is the order of the day. In order to say something, simply saying it outright will not get the job done. Whenever you say something, a context will immediately materialize wherein every word you just said are interpreted, imbued with layers of meaning, and overall serve as a resonance chamber for previous statements. You are not just saying a thing – you are mobilizing a vast mountain range of previous things that were said and now have renewed meaning. It is, by and large, these things that your peers respond to, rather than the exact wordings of whatever you said.
This is something of a predicament for those valuing clear, unambiguous communication. It is also utterly familiar to anyone who has a crush on someone. Simply walking up to the person in question and telling them that you have a crush on them – just like that, out of the blue, no preamble – is a brutally counterproductive course of action, and some different strategy will have to be devised. Cheesy pick-up lines is one such strategy, but it is by no means the only one. The goal is not to make a definitive statement right out the bat, but rather to create favorable social conditions for further communication.
This song is the musical equivalent of a cheesy pick-up line, and has to be understood as such. The words are incidental, but the oontz
The oontz is eternal.