A few nights ago, we went to Zouk. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was a feeble, subconscious attempt to recapture the glory of our youth, when we thought nothing of showing up at midnight and danced till 2.30, and then went out for supper at that corner bah kut teh joint on the corner of River Valley and Mohamed Sultan Road.
These days, it’s a real struggle to even keep my eyes open at 10pm and the idea of actually getting dressed at 11.30pm to go out filled me with dread.
“Oh, don’t be such an old uncle!” Saffy said even as she lay on her bed, eyes closed while clawing weakly at the side of the bed in an attempt to get up. “I’m just taking a disco nap! That’s allowed!”
“Why are we going?” I asked from the comfortable depths of the sofa.
“Because we always spend our Friday nights at home and it’s not normal!” Amanda said crisply as she emerged from her room resplendent in a cute little Miu Miu dress and trailing a scent of Dior. “We need to have some fun and out there,” she said, pointing a red-lacquered finger through the lounge room window, “out there is ‘fun’! So, quit complaining, get up and get dressed!”
As Saffy later shouted to me in the dark caverns of Zouk, our entire bodies vibrating with the heavy bass thumping out of the hidden woofers, it’s a wonder Amanda never found a career in the army. “She’s so incredibly bossy! Oh my God, could this music be any louder?”
And right at that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder why I had left the cool comforts of my flat and the companionable warmth of my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch to spend precious sleep time in the dark with a swarm of very enthusiastic but slightly smelly, barely post-pubescent children who clearly were high on something. Because I simply did not understand the music that club was playing.
The music I grew up with had melody. Some had catchy riffs. Some had great lyrics. Some had great orchestrations. Some had it all. And each sounded different. Unique. But most of all, the music made sense.
That night, all I heard – or rather, all I felt, since the music was so loud it completely bypassed my auditory canals and went straight for my nerve endings – was thump, thump, thump, chika, chika, thump, thump...And all around me, people were swaying, their arms enthusiastically pumping the air, eyes closed as they fell into a relentless beat that just never stopped. Days later, I could still feel the thump in the soles of my feet. And that’s all I remembered of the music. Not a single lyric. Not a single melody. Just that thump, thump, chika, chika, thump, thump…
“When did you turn into such an old man?” Barney Chen said after listening to me complain about the state of today’s music. He passed me his iPod and ear-pieces. “Here, listen to this and tell me it’s not a great song!”
So I sat there for three or four minutes listening to someone blather what sounded like “Ra-ra-wa-ah-hiya, wa-ha-ro-ma-ha-ha”.
“Oh my God, you didn’t like that?” Barney gasped, his hand clutching his barrel-chest. “That’s Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’! It’s my private national anthem!”
“But it makes no sense!” I said.
“What do you mean it makes no sense? ‘I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your everything as long as it’s free!’ It’s fabulous!”
“That doesn’t mean anything!”I bleated. “How do you want someone’s ‘ugly’? And why would you want anyone’s disease in the first place?”
“Oh excuse me,” Barney Chen huffed, “and the lyrics to ‘MacArthur Park’ make so much sense, do they? ‘Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can’t take it, cause I took so long to bake it and I’ll never have that recipe again, oh no!’” Barney belted out the chorus, completely oblivious to the looks the rest of Starbucks was giving him. And when he finished, he turned to me and said, “Seriously?”
I paused. “I thought that was one of your favourite songs?”
Barney blushed. “It is. But only the Donna Summer version! My point is that you just have to go with the flow. So the modern music doesn’t make sense to you, but who says it has to?
That night, I went onto YouTube and called up Lady Gaga. As Saffy walked past my open door, she heard me mutter, “‘I want your leather studded kiss in the sand!’ Really?”