by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & The Golden Mean & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "F & lt;/span & olsom Prison Blues." "I Fought the Law," Clash Version. Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me." Outkast's "Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)." Dylan's "Song to Woody." An odd mix of music connected by a single fact: Music columnist and humorist Joshua Allen believes they're the perfect length for a pop song -- 2:42.
He says a team of scientists has confirmed it. They haven't, I don't think. Allen clearly just picked the number out of the air. It got me thinking, though. Of all the songs I love for reasons of catchiness, only rarely do they outstrip the three-minute mark.
Looking at my considerable library of Kinks songs is enough to prove the point. One of the world's great pop bands, it seems, didn't write more than maybe four good songs that eclipsed the 3-minute mark. "Come Dancing" and "Lola" are the best of those, though "Come Dancing" could be trimmed by a minute and lose nothing.
While it's an arbitrary number supported by anecdotal iTunes evidence, the brevity thing strikes a chord with music-types. The column was shown to me by no less a songwriter than (The Inlander's) Joel Smith. "There's something to it," he said, before lamenting that he himself has never written a song under three minutes. No wonder son doesn't have a record deal. His singer/songwriter-heavy iTunes collection, further, has only five songs that hit Allen's golden mean (compared to my hit-riddled 24). Maybe that's why folkies ain't the platinum-sellers they once were. The world has turned. Brevity is in, and has been, by my calculations, since just after Cyndi Lauper curated The Goonies soundtrack.
Also on my personal list is perhaps the world's sexiest adultery song, Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." Flip through your list of sub-three-minute songs. I bet every one leaves you wanting. "I'm on Fire" does for damn sure. Every time the Boss' coo-yodel kicks in and the song starts to fade out, I'm crying, "Bruce! Come back, Bruce!" He doesn't come back, though, because he knows seduction as few do. And so I yearn.