I honestly thought this song was a gag.
While searching for something completely different on YouTube, the video for Chicago’s new single, “America,” popped up into my line of sight.
Yes, dinosaur group Chicago is still around, although how many original members are still in the band, or even still alive, I couldn’t tell you.
Normally I ignore them, but because their single is called “America,” my curiosity was aroused.
I braced myself and hit the “play” button, figuring I was in for one of those faux-melancholy “I wish America was as
liberal noble and wise as I am” tunes a la John Cougar Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen.
In a weird kind of way, what I heard was something worse.
See, “America” features enough ambiguous lyrical loopholes to give Chicago “plausible denial” if they’re charged with — heaven forbid! — jingoism.
But unless my irony detector is short-circuiting, I’m pretty sure this song is supposed to be a goose-pimply, totally non-ironic paean to, well, America, much like Neil Diamond’s 1980 Ellis Island anthem of the same name.
That is, “America” as Tea Partiers understand it, not the “dissent is patriotic” shadow-“America” that leftists pretend to revere.
Leftists like, well, the Chicago as constituted in 1970…
Nope, I didn’t know about that either until a music geek friend passed along this juicy sample of the flaky liner notes for the band’s second LP:
With this album, we dedicate ourselves, our futures and our energies to the people of the Revolution. And the Revolution in all of its forms.
My friend added:
Even as a teenager I can remember wondering, “How exactly is sappy, inoffensive chart-fodder like ‘Color My World’ or ‘If You Leave Me Now’ or ‘Another Rainy Day in New York City’ supposed to help instigate The Glorious People’s Revolution?”
So I guess the good news is that Chicago has outgrown its youthful, pretentious radical-chic phase.
Or has it?
There’s a whiff of cheap cynical opportunism coming off that new single’s horn section, don’t you think?
And that’s the other trouble with “America”:
It sounds so much like a South Park parody of a tacky patriotic song that I found myself smiling in advance of a punchline that never came.
That reaction isn’t Chicago’s fault entirely. After all, they have no control over brilliant satire’s ability to turn serious creations into eternal jokes.
For example, when I saw The Last Temptation of Christ in theaters, the audience laughed at the least appropriate moments; they were all thinking of Life of Brian‘s on-the-nose spoofs of the same biblical scenes.
I can’t watch any of those Classic Albums episodes, either, without yelling out at some point, “It’s not your job to be as confused as Nigel!”
Speaking of which: Chicago is the subject of a new-ish documentary.
Having seen the uninspired clip Adam Carolla ran on his podcast (above), I’m afraid this is all I can think of: