I began Top 40 Philosophy with Taylor Swift, and yesterday I had finally made my way down the chart to Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High).” Next up would be “Bang Bang,” by Jessie J et. al., but I don’t have the energy to redeem that song at the moment. Instead, let’s jump back to the year I graduated high school and entered college.
Dave Grohl made headlines last week for saying something about Taylor Swift and Spotify, and since Taylor Swift gave us our first post, let’s give Mr. Grohl our first “flashback” post. Here, then, is the Foo Fighter’s (now-classic), “My Hero” (which somehow only made it to #6 on the Billboard modern rock chart).
This song belongs to what we Christians call the “Praise & Worship” genre — except it is praise of a human, not a deity. Contemporary American hero-worship songs are normally found in country music and are likely to be about warriors, like the ballads of old. Now that I think about it, however, not every Praise & Worship song is about a hero. The most well-populated class of P&W songs are what we might call “Self-Worship” or “We-Worship.” Just listen to metal (see AC/DC’s “T.N.T.“) or hip-hop (see my post on Bobby Shmurda) if you don’t believe me.
In any event, songs like “My Hero” are rare in rock. And, ironically, what’s especially rare about the song is that Mr. Grohl’s hero is completely “ordinary.” (You never see his face in the video.) He’s not a warrior and he’s not from the distant past. He simply “bled it out” while everyone else “petered out.”
Perhaps there is no irony here, however. An ordinary person is exactly the kind of hero you would expect from an alternative rock band. Alternative began as a folk/punk revolt against the elitism of 80s metal. Especially in its Nirvana incarnation (the band that first introduced Grohl to the world), alternative rock was music anyone could play. It took rock down off the stage and gave it back to the audience, like Martin Luther had tried to do with church music.
The musicians who created alternative rock were extremely talented of course, but they presented themselves as people anyone could be like. And isn’t “Someone I Want to Be Like” what a hero is?
Alternative rock taught people that you could be both ordinary and valuable at the same time. You don’t have to be exceptional to be good. I, for one, find this worldview very attractive.