Friday, July 23rd, 2010

I Have Seen The Future Of Adult Contemporary And Its Name Is Train

The chest, it is untrimmedOn Thursday afternoon, a Jumbotron at 43rd and Broadway in Times Square streamed a live performance of the "adult contemporary" band Train. The actual performance took place just across the street, high up in the Reuters building, and if you are a fan of  "adult contemporary" and watched this broadcast-which also streamed on Facebook-you would have seen me in the audience.

I do not like the band Train. Or, more accurately, I have no opinion of the band Train-they fall into the category of bands that I know "exist." I am aware of that song with that catchy mandolin about greeting a "soul sister," and that's about it. But there I was, forging with them that special bond that can only come from a shared presence on a Jumbotron.

The studio was stuffed full of cameras and men with headphones. The TVs hanging from ceilings and walls idled on a single image, that of one the two sponsors. The company logos were everywhere, and the audience was stuffed to one side of the band's gear. I stood with people associated with the sponsors or the PR firm, friends, and family. Three teenage girls were placed up front, getting antsy waiting for this "adult contemporary" band to come on. They were clearly very excited. They were giggling so hard they looked like they had found a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's confectionery sweatshop.

"It's just like TRL!" one of these girls said, baring her plastic braces.

"What's TRL?" said the woman next to her, presumably her mother.

"Omigod you don't know what TRL is!"

The girls giggled more.

I was standing in front of three twenty-something guys, and asked if they worked with the sponsors. They informed me they were friends of the host, Allison Hagendorf. I had no idea who that was. They pointed her out. Makeup people were puffing her cheeks painting her lips with lipgloss.

"Oh, right," I said.

"She's the host of the Fuse TV's Top 20 Countdown," one of them said.

"Oh, probably should have known that," I said. "She's pretty attractive."

"These are her parents," he said, and waved to the older man and woman standing directly next to me.

"Oh, hey," I said to Mr. and Mrs. Hagendorf. "Um, sorry about that."

A few minutes later Allison Hagendorf, primped up and sporting a well-practiced smile, introduced the band-"You can catch a subway anywhere in the city but today you gotta look up if you wanna see TRAIN!"-and out they came. The lead singer had on a purple tight tee shirt and more gel in his hair than The Situation. The guitarist was bald with Bono-style glasses. The drummer was blonde and in the interview part asserted that John Bonham was "the best drummer ever."

First up was "Drops of Jupiter," an exercise in schmaltz-pop held up by rolling electric piano and lyrics filled with clunky reference to soy lattes and fried chicken. I hadn't thought about the song in years. Alison Hagendorf described it as "cosmic." Right. Jupiter.

They played their new single, "If It's Love." I wasn't exactly listening, as I was too intent on making sure I didn't scratch my nose while millions of teens watched this nightmare Facebook. Pat Monahan, the lead singer, did some pompous breast-stroke movements; his other blindingly white dance moves during the show included, but were not limited to: the arm roll, the fists-clenched shoulder-shake, the hip-boogie, and the look-at-the-camera lunge.

Then they broke into "Hey, Soul Sister," the song everyone knows, even if you have no idea what these guys look like (I sure didn't-I Google imaged them on my phone in the bathroom). The kids really liked this one! They swayed, smiled and mouthed along with the words. Unsurprisingly, the "adult contemporaries" in the room liked it, too. I mean, it is their music. They got down!

After the show I tried to speak to the band about how awesome it is to play shows surrounded by corporate executives and products getting pimped out. First I talked to a very nice PR guy who showed me the laptop music software/headphone combination that sponsored this concert. Yes, you are correct. There was a shit ton of bass. Totally beast setup, bro.

Then, I was told the band had to keep to a strict schedule, and they were sorry they couldn't talk to me. I'm sorry too, Train. The future adult contemporary fan inside of me is very sorry.

40 Comments / Post A Comment

C_Webb (#855)

Every time I hear that awful line about Mozart and tae-bo (hyphen, right?) I want to pull off and dropkick my own head.

GiovanniGF (#224)

I hear that damn "Soul Sister" song every time I go to the supermarket and had no idea who sang it or even whether it was new or old. You could have told me it was the Spin Doctors and I would have believed you.

hman (#53)

I am a sucker for supermarket music, but these guys? And this song? They name-check (hyphen? don't care) Mr. Mister, which, LOL.

Eureka Street (#1,349)

Is Train seriously their band name, though? Is this real life? I hope it stands for something, like the way rappers acronymize — YUP — basic words to make the appropriation unique.

Drake just said his means "Do Right And Kill Everything." Although mostly a joke since Drake is his actual (middle) name.

I thought it was cool that Tupac was so concerned with Tobacco Use Prevention And Control, though, as counter to his persona as it was.

iantenna (#5,160)

yeah, god, what a terrible band name. couldn't they have come up with something more clever and awesome like clap your hands, say yeah, or !!!, or AIDS wolf? what a bunch of lameos.

deepomega (#1,720)

Trembling Retiree Artists Inherently Narcissistic.

KenWheaton (#401)

They wanted something more subtle than "Old Man Gang Bang"

Jim Demintia (#1,815)

I hear them at the gym sometimes. Just today, they were playing one of their songs (not the soul sister one, some other one) and I caught whosits singing something to his lady about the two of them being "birds of a feather." Pure poetry.

katiebakes (#32)

WHATEVER, Drops of Jupiter came out my senior spring of high school and so it went on every "graduation mix" I ever made (alongside this song, duh) so like, BACK OFF.

(But yeah, remember tae-bo!? LOL)

C_Webb (#855)

I feel the same warmth toward Eric Carmen's "Make Me Lose Control," although since I was deadhead stoner chick at the time it would have sounded somewhat out of place on my mixed tapes, which consisted primarily of stephen stills, van morrison, and steely dan. When it showed up on "Dexter" I squealed with glee.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

You're kidding, Katie! My burning hatred for "Drops of Jupiter" can be directly traced to the ridiculous number times it appeared on mix CDs my lady friends made.

katiebakes (#32)

I'll make one with Calling All Angels on it instead just for you!

SourCapote (#4,872)

Im glad to live in a god fearing,patriotic,Laissez-faire,basic human freedoms free from tyranny and oppression kind of state…OTHERWISE….Im pretty sure this would be playing on the state sanctioned radio,and that i could not live with

SourCapote (#4,872)

But, that drops of jupiter ditty was quite memorable

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)


SourCapote (#4,872)


cherrispryte (#444)

As soon as I read the word "Train," I thought, "oh, the soy latte song!" and there it is, getting mentioned in the post.

You go, soy latte song.

joeks (#5,805)

What is a drop of Jupiter? WHAT IN THE HELL IS A DROP OF JUPITER?!

That song has these couplets in it, I don't remember them anymore, but you know. "She drinks a soy latte while she does tae bo", that sort of thing, meant to show what a dynamic person this wonderful lady is. I guess the idea is that the things she buys and subsequently consumes are more interesting than the things other ladies buy and consume? But really it just makes me think she's probably like every other boring dumbass who bought a tae bo DVD from an infomercial.

Now if they were closer to "She handrolls a cigarette while humanely putting a rabid animal out of its misery", well, that would be a little more interesting.

BadUncle (#153)

There's no adult contemporary like Juan García Esquivel adult contemporary. Mucha Muchacha!

iantenna (#5,160)

adult contemporary, where all other genres go to die a sad, slow, unremarkable death.

NinetyNine (#98)

Everything I know about Train I learned from Gary Benchley. I always thought he was talking about The Toll.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Train is creepy. There's no good reason for a man that age to be dressing and doing his hair and sounding like that.

katiebakes (#32)

He started out in a Led Zeppelin cover band!!!!!

deepomega (#1,720)

It's a testament to my lifestyle that I don't understand who these people are or what your words mean. What?

Itisnobigdeal (#3,290)

When were they ever relevant enough to be considered non adult contemporary??

You get what you pay for on a Times Square Jumbotron.

roboloki (#1,724)

so what IS a "trl"??

vancat (#6,271)

Clearly none of you lived in the Bay Area in the past decade or so, since as that rare creature A Local Band, their ragingly bland music has held an iron grip on the pop-music radiowaves for so, so long.

katiechasm (#163)

Ragingly bland is correct.

mandor (#1,014)

God help me, they filmed that video on my old street in Echo Park and I had to listen to "Hey, Soul Sister" many many times that day.

LondonLee (#922)

So what's the difference between "adult contemporary" and AOR? Haircuts?

hockeymom (#143)

Hate, hate, hate Train. And I am a Contemporary Adult.
My 9 year old daughter loves, loves, loves Soul Sister and it is on non-stop rotation at my house.
I, too, LOL'd at the Mr. Mister reference, because "Take These Broken Wings" and "Kyrie" are even WORSE songs than that "Soul Sister".
I think they put it in to remind people that there's at least ONE band that sucks more than Train.

dialectric (#6,128)

The picture accompanying this article does much to support the widely held understanding that guitar strap length is correlated to coolness: the lower the guitar, the more bad-ass the guitarist.

bronwyn (#3,351)


omitofo (#4,921)

I was making out with a dude in my car a couple months ago and soul sister come on….in a mix I had sandwiched between basement jaxx and britney. He stopped groping me for a second and asked "oh my god, is this that song from that commercial" and i told him to shut the fuck up.

but the best train song is "meet virginia"

I've always assumed that Train writes all their songs about one really obnoxious girl. You know the one. She wears high heels while does Tae Bo to Mozart, just got back from a vacation on the moon, doesn't own a dress, and loves soy lattes, Mr. Mister, babies and surprises. Meet Virgina.

Sometimes when one of these songs comes on, I wonder if that horrible Manic Pixie Dream Girl feels guilty about inspiring all those terrible songs.

Eureka! Finally a song to put in the background of this ad for margarine-flavored spreadable toast-wettener I've been working on!

Regulators (#4,114)

I'd rather drag ironing boards through a forest than listen to Train.

Mike Doughty (#6,314)

That's no mandolin; that's a UKELELE.

Yeah, groovy-people uke fetishism has bubbled up to Hot AC radio.

RockMaterial (#6,710)

First of all, Nate Freeman, the small guitar looking thing you refered to as a mandolin is actually in fact a ukelele. BIG difference, try doing your job (research) and look it up.

Second of all, Nate Freeman, it is very rude to insult anyone without it being warranted (which it is not). It might cost you your next promotion because people might think you repell the majority of your audience with your vulgarity.

Third of all, Nate Freeman, it is people like you who make it hard for teenagers like me to not be made fun of for (apparenty) listening to 'Adult Contemporary' music. Why label music by the age of the listeners? I'm 16 1/2 and I like jazz, classical, country, rock, alternative, easy listening, pop, Latin, and R & B; deal with it and let me listen in sweet peace.

P.S. No one likes a hypocrite. Could you play ANY instrument at such a high level? Or carefully write a song and music for it? I thought not, asshole. I am very maddened at the moment (made unmistakably apparent by the use of an expletive), and yet it's me who's sorry for you. You evidently don't have the brain capacity to handle the intense chords that are in Jazzy songs, and you're missing out. Missing out, not only on this band, but on the ones that you probably deftly shoved away without stopping for a second to take in the music before you disregarded them as crap. Every kind of music is a beautiful masterpiece that the lyricist and composer conjured up and put untold amounts of effort into. Please think before you criticize. Coming from a songwriter (lyricist and composer), singer, guitarist, French hornist, mellophonist, trumpet player, and trombonist, it's very hurtful to have someone put down the very artwork you spent all your time carefully perfecting.

That, Nate Freeman, is how you just got eloquently put down like a euthanized imbecile by a junior in high school. Good luck with your career.

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