Tuesday, March 1, 2011

For The Sake Of The Story?

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there have a problem with that ol' 80s anthem, "The Final Countdown"? Not the hooky little keyboard riff, not the overblown vocals and production, not even the disturbing prettiness of the band members. Just compare lead singer Joey Tempest (left) with former porn star Racquel Darrian (right).

Despite all those elements, what I truly dislike about this song are the lyrics.

Not all the lyrics. For my money they're pretty ordinary, but the band is Swedish, and I doubt that English was the first language for any of them (but I don't know this to be true).

It's that one little verse where they change the laws of physics and space/time and even the accepted knowledge about the viability of life, all so they can rhyme some words. And maybe sound smart.

The lyrics in question:
We're heading for Venus, and still we stand tall,
'Cause maybe they've seen us, and welcome us all, yeah
With so many light years to go, and things to be found...

So where do I start? Okay...they're heading for Venus? Arguably the planet in our Solar System which is least suited to hosting any kind of life as we would recognise it. An atmosphere consisting almost entirely of carbon dioxide, a layer of dense sulfuric acid clouds, no detectable water, and massive planet-wide volcanic activity...where do I sign?

Which leads me to the next question: who are the "they" who will potentially be leaving the porch light on and a key under the mat? And why would they do that if we'd just shown judgment so poor as to destroy our own planet?

But then, my favourite part..."with so many light-years to go". Woah! Slow down, Joey...settle...don't you worry your pretty little head about it! Light years? Earth is only 8 light minutes from the Sun. Even if we were to postulate that Venus was all the way over on the other side of the Sun at the very moment the spacecraft took off, surely they couldn't be more than about 15 light minutes away from their destination.

Now, all of the above is done in jest, of course. What do the facts matter to a glam metal band? I'm serious on that, too. Sometimes the facts can get in the way of a good story. I mean, they could just have easily said they'd head for Mars, but the rhythm is wrong. One syllable, not two. So Venus works better. At least they didn't threaten to aim for Uranus.

But how far is too far? In a pop song, really, who cares (besides pedants like myself)? But in a movie, or a book, how far can a writer stretch the truth before it no longer works? I'm obviously not talking about fantasy, or created worlds. I'm talking about fictional stories set in this world as we know it.

What do you think is acceptable?

1 comment:

Katie Salidas said...

I don't think there is a hard and fast rule of how far you can stretch the imagination. But there is that fine line, fiction, while fake and "made up", has to be at least somewhat believable.

For instance, in a fictional story vampires can exist, but you can't say they just "poofed into existent one day." Readers will want to know the why and the how.

Make up a believable enough explanation for it and readers will allow that into their imaginary realm.

The same applies to world building and creating "rules" for your fictional realms. Once you have established the rules, readers have a "fictional" belief system in place. They'll accept that for the story but won't let you step out of bounds. You can say the sky is green in your story but it has to remain green through the whole story. You can't change it to purple midway through.

As for 80's music, is there really any explanation for 80's music? LoL. It was the 80's for god's sake. Just look at the hair!! LoL.