In Defense of Muzak

Yes, it’s true. Without bribery, I listen to Muzak®, aka elevator music, aka easy listening.

Writers who discuss music of any kind may as well bungee jump into a volcano. Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry learned this when he dissed singer Neil Diamond. When a flabbergasted Barry received piles of hate mail, his delighted publisher commissioned Barry to write an entire book about music he loathed. And hired an army of lawyers.

No one’s hired even one for me, so I’ll stick to easy listening’s positive aspects — though nobody admits to liking Muzak®. Like scorn for gluten, happy endings and the Pledge of Allegiance, disdain for elevator music has become fashionable.

Critics dismiss it as simple — God protect us from simplicity! — and even happy.

Everyone knows happiness is for lightweights like Jane Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, who flunked Mr. Darcy’s standards: “Miss Bennet he admitted to be pretty, but she smiled too much.”

Contemporary Mr. Darcys believe Muzak® should be banished to avoid annoying unhappy people who want to stay that way.

Still, I don’t rubber-stamp all easy listening songs, Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s hit, “Somethin’ Stupid,” sounded stupid in 1967 and still does. When I am put on hold with “Send in the Clowns,” I can grind my teeth with any Muzak® hater.

Still, is it fair to label all elevator music as unworthy of elevators? Many arrangements, instrumentalists, and vocalists are superior to the originals.

While you writhe in shock, allow me to mention other Muzak® positives:

  • It sounds better than “Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line for the next decade or until you die, whichever comes first.”
  • Elevator music evokes naps, which benefit all humankind.
  • It employs hungry musicians, so they’re less likely to play under our windows on Saturday nights.
  • It provides opportunities to sing along in stores, mortifying children and grandchildren.
  • Actually, elevator music brings generations together. Oldie lovers feel smug because they know what “real” music is. Critics of yesterday’s hits flaunt trendy musical taste. Everyone feels superior — truly a win-win situation.
  • Easy listening music also transports one to the past e.g., dancing at the prom. Sure, Muzak® also may provoke memories of a date painful as shin splints, or a breakup that resembled a Sylvester Stallone film. Given enough violins, though, such misery can be transmogrified into sweet melancholy at the remembrance of young love. At worst, you can congratulate yourself that you dodged that bullet.
  • Finally, Muzak®, in provoking memories, proves I still have one.

I imagine Dave Barry, my fellow bungee-volcano jumper, would agree this discussion is worth it.

“Sweet Caroline,” anyone?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you secretly like Muzak®?

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