Song: “It’s a Beautiful Day” by Michael Bublé, ranked 7th on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
What it teaches us about being a contemporary adult: We get more and more aloof every day.
See that above? It’s something called an “Official Lyric Video.” I assume record companies realized they were losing sweet YouTube bucks to bootleg, homemade lyrics videos so they made Michael Bublé throw on a leather jacket and vamp in front of a green screen. Still, the video served its intended purpose: I finally figured out what the song is about.
I’ve heard “It’s a Beautiful Day” before—probably at a Quiznos or CVS—and I always assumed it was a love song. It starts off with a little guitar riff that rips off “Piece of My Heart” and then does a swan dive into a plunking piano bit that sounds like an eHarmony ad. In comes Bublé, and he starts doing his Bublé thing and there are horns and before you know it every mom in America has ordered his CD from WalMart.com with express shipping.
I had completely chalked it off as a banal love song because it fit my preconceived template of a banal love song. But it’s not. It’s about saying good riddance to a bad relationship. It’s a “Fuck You” tune with some Bublé magic sprinkled on top. How did I miss that? The answer dawned on me while watching that official lyric video: I have become more stupid and aloof with each passing day of my adult life.
This goes against everything we have been told about wisdom and its relationship to age. Children are supposed to be teflon-coated shits who let stimuli and life lessons slide right off them. We want this to be true because it disguises the fact that we will never be as open-minded and aware of the world around us as when we were young.
Contemporary adults, we are the teflon-coated shits.
Think about a simple interaction with a cashier at a fast food restaurant when you were a kid. It was terrifying. The basic back-and-forth of pleasantries hadn’t yet become rote and insincere. If you were asked how you were doing, you thought about how you were doing. You paused and mumbled because you didn’t know. Your brain processed this inquiry while also deciding your order, deducing the origins of the stain beneath your feet, inferring the life stories of customers in your periphery, and listening to the lyrics of the song playing overhead.
You were one giant sensory organ; in my case, an exposed nerve with a bowl cut.
Now, when placed in the same situation, I’m a complete idiot; a mental hermit barely aware that I am even on this planet, let alone in the middle of an interaction with another human being. I say, “Large Whopper meal, please,” and, “Thank you,” at the times when I know I am supposed to say those things. The restaurant could be pulled from its foundation by a squadron of military helicopters and flown to rural Indochina and I wouldn’t realize until I checked my phone and saw that I wasn’t getting 4G anymore.
It could be argued that an adult’s ability to go through the motions helps us complete unimportant tasks while leaving axonal and dendritic pathways open for more valuable mental activities. This would be nice, but all our freed-up synapses just end up transferring information about what’s on our DVRs.
You get wiser as you get older in so much as your assumptions solidify and you become a terrifically effective reaction machine. There are brief moments when we override this, but it usually takes an overt interruption from a wholly outside source to do this (i.e. a video of Michael Bublé snapping his fingers next to gigantic visualizations of the words he is singing).
If an adult’s auto-response mechanics really hit the fritz, they are considered slow or insane. If the person ahead of you in line at Burger King ponderously takes apart the cashier’s “Welcome to Burger King, how are you today?” you’d get your ass out of there because who knows what that wackjob is capable of.
Appropriately, there’s a cliché that urges us to break out of our everyday, closed-minded reactionary habits: “Stop and smell the roses.” Clichés, as a whole, are linguistic embodiments of our refusal to earnestly process new information. This Russian nesting doll goes further when you find out there’s a Harry Nilsson-produced Ringo Starr song called, "Stop and Take the Time to Smell the Roses,” and an accompanying video where Ringo acts out the song with a painful literalness (When he sings, “Take the time to read the label,” he drinks from a bottle clearly marked, “Poison,” etc...).
This video was a precursor to the “Official Lyrics Video” for “It’s a Beautiful Day,” whose true meaning is now cemented into my grey matter. The next time I hear it, however, I won’t actually be listening. The song’s meaning will be there due to a slight detour my brain will take, but my present, functioning mind will be aloof, barely nonplussed by the image of Ringo Starr drinking poison that arose for some vaguely familiar reason.
Nick Greene's favorite combo meal at Burger King is the Whopper Jr. He's on Twitter — @nickgreene