Song: “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers. 2nd on the Adult-Contemporary chart after finally falling from the top spot after eight-straight weeks.
What it teaches us about being a contemporary adult: You don’t get summers anymore.
Like scientists stationed at remote outposts or Europeans, contemporary adults must endure a protracted waiting period before they can enjoy the fruits of pop culture. This is for the well-being of the cultural product itself, which benefits its creators by being commercially viable long after it becomes tired or passé amongst savvier consumers. This is also why The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” which came out in Spring 2012, is the adult contemporary summer jam of 2013.
In order to be an adult contemporary summer jam, the song obviously needs to fall into that Billboard category. “Ho Hey” also achieved major success on the pop and rock charts, but if you sliced it open and ran a blood test, you’d find that it is 100%, pure-bred adult contemporary. More specifically, it exemplifies a specific adult contemporary subsection: Dentist Waiting Room Folk. It hits all the marks:
√ Self-referential lyrics about the singer to remind you that he/she is a musician.
√ Acoustic guitars--wait, are those ukuleles? Who cares.
√ Echo-y chorus that sounds like a college acapella group trapped in a well.
√ The overwhelming sense that the band members are wearing hats.
Even if it did come out during the appropriate season, there is no chance “Ho Hey” would ever be considered a traditional summer jam. Those hits are for the young; they convey the sexually free and defiant anti-authority sentiment one connotes with three months away from school and responsibility. Take a look at the songs listed in Billboard’s Songs of the Summer chart--songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” or Icona Pop’s “I Love It.” These represent a very specific kind of summer, and it’s not the kind of summer you have as an adult.
The most shocking thing about being a grown-up is realizing that there are no more summers. This should be obvious and inevitable, but the idea that you are expected to work every single weekday until you retire or die is unfathomable to a young person. No one tells children this directly; it is always passed along in code. How many times did your parents tell you, “It’s a really beautiful day, you should go outside,” while you were watching a rerun of Ricki Lake in July? That benign weather report was their way of saying, “Good God, you fucking moron, get some fresh air before you join us on the slow march toward death.”
Like all saddening components of adulthood, an adult’s ability to get used to or even shrug said components off is the most depressing thing of all. After a very short time it seems unfathomable to an adult that he or she used to have clear, defined summers: Months-long periods when all they had to do was, at the most, put in some part-time hours at a low-stress job or, at the least, drink root beer and masturbate.
It was during these wonderful summers that you were able to sit in frigid, air-conditioned theaters and watch movies the week they opened. You were able to drive around with the windows down and listen to the newest music. You took these moments for granted, and so years later it’s only fair that you come home wearing your sweaty, long-sleeved work clothes, order Seamless, and think, “Hey, I haven’t seen that Silver Linings Playbook yet. Didn't this win an Oscar or something?”
So you scroll through the OnDemand menu and play the movie's trailer and the strumming of a guitar sounds and a whiney voice sings, “I don’t know where I belong, I don’t know where I went wrong,” and there’s Bradley Cooper wearing a garbage bag and he looks like he’s about to cry and now DeNiro is yelling at him and Katniss is dancing and--damn it--it’s already 10:15 p.m. and you don’t have time to watch this entire movie.
“Ho Hey” stays in your head, however, and you start humming it to yourself on the commute to work the next day. Then you find it on YouTube and watch the video a couple times, even though everyone in it is wearing suspenders and a hat (but, somehow, you already knew this). You don’t even know if you like the song, but it’s stuck in your head and, as a contemporary adult, you don’t have time to listen to much else.
Through the torpid channels through which you receive pop culture, The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” has become your summer jam. This realization strikes you sometime in September when someone at work complains that summer just "flew on by." It then dawns on you that, yes, those muggy days and weeks you barely noticed were in fact summer.
You then promise yourself that if you ever have kids who stay inside and watch TV all summer that you won’t warn them of what’s around the corner. No, the knowledge that those little shitheads will soon be toiling away on sunny, perfect days is the kind of schadenfreude that makes parenting worthwhile.
Nick Greene only listens to music on YouTube and loves David Lee Roth. He's on Twitter — @nickgreene