Satire In The ‘Burbs

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The song Rockin’ The Suburbs was released by Ben Folds in 2001. The song is a reaction to a set of aggressive comments made during an interview by one of the members of the metal band Korn. In the interview, musician Jonathan Davis spoke about Ben Fold’s music style and stated, “All we want to do is bring heavy back into rock n’ roll. Because goddamned Ben Folds Five sucks.”

Being the incredibly creative musician that Ben Folds is, he produced the satrical tune, Rockin’ The Suburbs, to mock the band’s whiny and angry attitude. The song is extremely multidimensional though. Not only does the song provide a comedic retaliation to the snarky comments that were made, but the song also addresses the incessant drone of the privileged middle class. Ben Folds specifically targets the social sphere of middle-aged white men. Being that he himself is a middle-aged white man, the tone of the song is exceedingly sarcastic.

Ben Folds begins with the earnest stanza,

"Let me tell y'all what it's like
Being male, middle-class and white.
It's a bitch, if you don't believe, listen up to my new CD."

The first stanza pokes fun at a bitter man who is trapped in a self-obsessed bubble of privilege. He goes on to say,

"I got sh*t running thought my brain,
It's so intense that I can't explain.
All alone in my white-boy pain,
Shake your booty while the band complains."

Folds’s hyperbolizes a sense of self-obsessed isolation. With no “real” problems, Folds has turned inwardly. The result of this mindset, is an edgy, pissed off man who can’t fully communicate his distress. In the next stanza, Fold’s makes a statement about the music industry itself. He goes on to say,

"I'm rockin' the suburbs, just like Michael Jackson did,
I'm rockin' the suburbs, except that he was talented.
I'm rockin' the suburbs, I take the checks and face the facts,
That some producer with computers fixes all my sh*tty tracks."

In this stanza, Folds calls out the musicians who have become “sell-outs” to the music business and giant recording comapanies. Folds makes a sarcastic jab at the musicians who pump out mediocre music for the sake of the payout.

In the following stanza, Folds compares the disgruntled middle-class to that of an overreacting, upset child. In the absence of urgent issues, this group moans about the deficiency of their parents.

"I'm pissed off, but I'm too polite,
When people break in the McDonald's line.
Mom and Dad you made me so uptight,
I'm gonna cuss on the mic tonight.
I don't know how much I can take,
Girl, give me something I can break."

The following stanza addresses how the privileged “never asked” for their status, yet gleefully reap the benefits of the system. Instead of actually trying to manifest change, this group stays complicit with the status quo.

"I'm rockin' the suburbs, just like Quiet Riot did,
I'm rockin' the suburbs, except that they were talented.
I'm rockin' the suburbs, I take the cheques and face the facts,
That some producer with computers fixes all my shitty tracks."

As the song comes to a close, Folds builds up to furiously say,

"It gets me real pissed off, it makes me want to say,
It gets me real pissed off and it makes me want to say,
It gets me real pissed off and it makes me want to say,
F*ck!"

Folds comedically demonstrates the “constraint” of the privileged middle-class, and the “burden” of remaining silent.

Folds does not dance around his subject matter, he gets into the nitty-gritty with little restraint. Nothing about his music idealizes the social and political issues he addresses. Rockin’ The Suburbs is only one example of his satirical abilities. On the same album, Ben Folds produced the song, All U Can Eat. This song captures the plague of materialism and the consuming qualities of capitalism. What makes Folds’ argument so captivating, is his ability to intertwine hysterical satirical content, while also not shying away from major social issues.

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