Sweet Dreams Are My Nightmares


Why did it become the anthem for every awful wait I have ever endured?  There are far better songs that I associate with every phase of my life.  I learned how to play Ode to Joy on the piano when I was still in elementary school, and I find myself tapping its melody on surfaces wherever I go.  Then there's a Replacements song called "Left of the Dial" that always fills me with a summery feeling of contentedness that I find hard to shake, even in the rain-ridden weather of autumn.  The song "Sweet Dreams" by the Euthrymics is a song that I never consider, except when I hear it, and when I do it fills me an unmovable feeling of dread and disappointment, at both the song's selection and the reminder that I am in a stage of my life where I am not allowed to stop listening to this song.

The song haunts me wherever I go within America.  Sometimes I will find myself hearing the song at a place where I am unfamiliar with my surroundings, like in a candle shop when I am waiting for a friend to finish buying something nearby.  Yet the mood it puts me through sends me through the same downcast, longing for the end mentality that nothing else does, barring the fear of crashing in an airplane.  Forlornly I await the music's end, knowing that its abolition is the only thing that will grant me relief.  It mocks me when the music picks up towards the end, becoming jaunty and distressingly optimistic, despite not having ever made it feel as if we had a reason to be sorry for ourselves.  It's similar to those moments when you are standing, without a care or thought in the world to occupy yourself, and sometime tells you to smile, or keep your chin up.  Let me remind everyone who has ever told someone those words that things are far more difficult when you realize that someone's blind optimism has prevented them from accepting a person without needing a different emotion from them.  

The orthodontist, the dentist, the doctor, the mall, a video cassette rental store that was open in the fall of '96, each of these places have the same desire to create an environment that is so familiar that you will hardly know you have been castigating your soul for desiring the different, the unfamiliar this whole time.  These institutions of annual obligation, the one's if you do not visit every thirty-hundred and sixty-five days you will regret into your time of dotage, play from the list of songs that are deemed so bland and inoffensive that they can be played even in the context of you awaiting a surgical procedure to remove a cancerous mole from your back.  

The lyrics are absolutely awful.  Sweet dreams are made of these / who in their minds would disagree.  Nothing about the dreams that she is discussing are sweet, nor are they related to a non-sequiter observation that everybody is looking for something, going on to make such uninformative observations that it dawns on you why this song was selected to be the intermezzo to something by Bruce Springsteen followed by something by Foreigner.  Songs like these have become part of the background for Americans in industries ranging from service to dentisty, but it is retail employees who knew them best of all, as they stand there, folding t-shirts, hearing the song they first heard when they were six that has now come to remind them, "You didn't think you'd get fulfillment from employment, did you?"

Who now has any idea what the song actually sounds like?  Having heard it so many times, it's a bit like asking someone who has been forced to watch 7 Samurai everyday for their whole lives if it is a good film.  At some point, the repetition makes it a meaningless question. Imagine having ice cream everyday for dinner.  I don't care how much you love ice cream; part of your love for it is the experience of seldom having it.  When we are pushing our face up against the thing we love for an extended period of time, we will grow to resent it.  They say familiarity breeds it, but it's not so much familiarity as it is proximity.  Regaining distance so that we can bring new experiences to the things we love, like an album from when were younger, is what keeps them alive, not simply having them on repeat everyday of our lives.  The idea here is that music loses its luster if we are exposed to it too frequently, and the frequency of "Sweet Dreams" has turned it into a death rattle.

The Euthrymics are cackling all the way to the bank.  Every time that tune is played on a soft rock music station, they must be getting a small sum for their creative efforts.  Their intentions when they created the song are all but empty in the actual music.  But what is the feeling of the song?  Was is its mood?  This is perhaps the most perplexing element of the song's rise to infamy.  The song is not uplifting, nor does it reflect on matters of heartbreak.  It is instead a reflection on the mundane psychological observation that some people want to hurt you, some people like being hurt, and sometimes you get caught up in that back and forth.  How it is that our "sweet dreams are made of this", nor why "traveling the world and the seven seas" is something the song deems relevant to the explanation of its topic eludes explanation.

Whenever the song comes on now, especially while I am standing absent-minded at work, I am snap back into the horrible feeling that nothing in the world is of any quality whatsoever, when it really comes down to it.  How can we go forward with this song threatening to unravel any mental stability we had cultivated over the years?  It's not an easy question.  Whenever it plays, I develop the same kind of sickened response to it. It takes the wind out from my sails, as it were, and leaves me stranded in a void from which only the song's absence can take me out from.  Somewhere, I am freed from this song.  It may be a distant future, in which nobody will remember other soft rock radio classics, like "Don't Stop Believing," because we will have all decided that the only music worth obsessing over is from the classical masters who have been dead for centuries.

For me, my sweet dreams are made of a world in which people shun the repetitive nature of radio stations that lack variety from contemporary offerings.  That comfort that these familiar tunes give us should be considered rather cold when we way the costs of unfamiliarity for hearing new music.  I have been listening to the new album by the War on Drugs.  No part of me finds that that album would be inappropriate for the same audiences that are subjected to the dull soft rock world that is forced into our ears day in and day out, but the fact remains that it is noticeable if we like or don't like, rather than simply have it on the background as something you are not to have an opinion about whatsoever.  Join me, friends.  We have opinions, and we have determined that the sweetness of our dreams is worth fighting through the sourness of their music.  

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