Target says it’ll start playing music in its stores. Everyone who likes this idea, raise your hands! Now that you know where they are — at the end of your wrists, as usual — you can put them over your ears.
It’s not that I don’t want to listen to music while buying a box of spaghetti. It’s that I don’t want to listen to someone else’s music. My music, of course, is awesome. If I were in control of the music, I would make everyone stop shopping and pay attention because there’s a part coming up that’s just amazing. (This is where I make air drumming gestures.)
I’m sure you would say the same about your music.
In other words, it depends on what the music is — and whose. When you have no choice over what you’re listening to, it’s like being a kid stuck in the car with your parents, who insist on listening to Buck Hicks and the Texas Cowpies or something, and Walkmans haven’t been invented yet.
Alas, pop music is ubiquitous in retail these days. It’s part of the concentrated effort by the modern world to prevent any interior dialogue so you can focus your mind on the important tasks in life, like feeling good about buying pants.
It doesn’t always work. At Cub the other day, they were playing tunes from the early ’70s, which made a few shoppers stop and think, “This reminds me of being pimply and frustrated while wearing orange pants made out of rayon. Please stop.” The song was “American Pie,” a interminable allegory that makes “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” sound like a brisk ditty, and it followed me around for the entirety of my trip, from produce to paper towels.
I have spent 40 years avoiding that song. It is easier to flush a cat than make me sit through the whole thing — and now I’m singing along with the chorus in my head. When I went through self-checkout, I expected the robot lady to say, “Have you driven your Chevy to the levy?” instead of asking if I scanned my rewards card.
Here’s how Target can make everyone happy: Play wildly diverse music in one-hour chunks, and let everyone know what’s playing when. Chopin and Handel from 1 to 2, Elvis from 2 to 3, Today’s Indistinguishable Hits from 3 to 4, Alcoholic Country Classics from 4 to 5, Deathcore Thrash Metal from 5 to 6, Twee Indie Bands That Haven’t Aged Well from 6 to 7, and so on. Give people a choice.
Or: Play early ’60s Muzak. Sprightly happy, anonymous music no one knows. It worked for a previous generation. Granted, you’ll get home and think, “Why did I buy nothing but TV dinners and Tab?” But nothing’s perfect.