Once upon a time when I was younger I read in a magazine that grocery store music, and music in other department stores for that matter, was selected to help you buy more things. It made me feel like stores think of me as some Pavlovian response machine that whips out my wallet on command when you play classic rock songs. The truth is that only works about half the time. I failed consumer obedience school. Thinking back, they must have been talking about experiments done by the S.S. in World War II, because only the Nazis could be so cruel. It sort makes me feel like I’m drowning while waiting for a call to a tech support person of interest from a country that doesn’t like the one I live in. The worst part is that most people can somehow ignore the sound so it penetrates straight to the buying matrix in the frontal cortex, which for the uneducated is the part of the brain that tells you how much candy and soda you need at the check-out counter and yes I will buy that cat food for my next door neighbor and what do you mean my credit card was denied!? This is an outrage I tell you! So how do you survive grocery store music, the most insidious evil since that demon in the movie Insidious? Well, you’re in luck because I worked in retail for six months and so I have found the secret.
Actually, I’m just kidding. There is no secret, I never learned how to ignore it and I went entirely mad…er. I went madder than I was before, because let’s be honest I was always a few prescriptions short of a pharmacy if you catch my drift. That’s really the solution, though, you ignore the music and just drink the subconscious cool-aid. It’s never that easy, though, is it? Because if there is any music that wasn’t made entirely from scraps of paper after a writing session between Phillip Glass and Phil Collins and played entirely through a street accordion run by a monkey that had a recent frontal lobotomy and never ever stops playing the damned thing it’s not by the original artist. You like the Rolling Stones, eh? Glad to see we both think they really know how to rock. That’s why, for your enjoyment while you peruse our store, we will play Satisfaction…by William Shatner. In case you were wondering, the answer is yes. William Shatner really did put out an album. It had a few other gems on it, like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. There were others, but I’m already attempting to repress the memory that I played them on the radio once upon a time. It’s exactly the kind of music you want to listen to when you’re buying your weekly essentials at the grocery store. A ladder, a sturdy hook, a long, thick rope…oh wait, that’s a different list. I was a bit distracted by William Shatner yelling at the end of “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Oh God! The memories! They burn!
The worst is when they actually play a good song and then it gets cut off midway by “the woman”. You know who I mean, every grocery store has one. The woman who does the announcements over PA in the same kind of harsh soulless tone of a worker in the secret lair of James Bond villain, “Meat Department call on line two, your rat poison came in and they need someone to sign for it, meat Department on line two.” When the announcement is over the good song has wrapped up and the deejay has started some song that sounds like it came from a period of heavy metals little known infatuation with the accordion. While you walk through the aisles of a grocery store, you may notice that the designers of the building didn’t have the phenomenon of sound in mind when the put the shelves up. That’s why I spent the longest time wondering why one line in the middle of an otherwise harmless Michael Buble song noted, “one half’s timing and the other’s a slut.” It really confused the hell out of me until I went and looked up the actual lyrics. What’s worse than that is the times when I heard the wrong lyrics when I knew the right ones, a la “six fingered Barbie dolls” from All about that Bass.” Which I thought was very progressive of Miss Traihnor because not enough people are taking about six fingered Barbie dolls and now all the six fingered Barbie dolls will leave hate comments without reading the rest of the post. God, I hate the internet sometimes.
It’s amazing how many genres of music exist that I would never have even found out about, if it weren’t for the music in grocery stores. For instance, I bet a lot of you like Reggae. Even if you don’t like Reggae, you probably like Reggae. Did you know that there was white people Reggae? I don’t mean white people singing about white people problems, I mean white people singing about being kept down by the man. It’s kind of really awkward. Thank you, grocery stores! I now hate sound. If I took anything away from working retail, it’s that I have it so much better as the customer. I remember last Christmas I went into a bookstore with Miss Cobwebs and we were laughing at how horrible the music was. I don’t even know how to describe, nor would I if I could because that would only encourage people to go look for it and I don’t want that on my consciences…well, on my mind anyways. See, the people working at that bookstore get to listen to that all the time, likely on repeat since it didn’t sound like a radio station. You may remember last Christmas, the string of suicides where the police found the victims having written the lyrics of rock’s greatest Christmas songs on the wall in their own blood, along with phrases like “no more” or “I can still hear them”. No? And that was the greatest Christmas miracle of all, my friends.
If I had to choose between music that I actually liked and music that I thought was an audio deconstruction of the painting “The Scream” I would choose the latter, because in that case I can block it out if I try hard enough. There are some songs that are good enough, I suppose, but they get played way too often. I guess it makes sense that they get repeat plays in a store that sells your food to you. There’s that song that every grocery story has about going down with the ship and not surrendering and whatnot. Yeah! Never surrender! Hey, cupcakes! Because I don’t do whatever the man says! I have my five food groups right here! Ice cream, cupcakes, candy, cookies and cyanide! Everything I need to make sure I never hear this music again. This is why you should just order your food from a catalogue. That way when you’re leaving the store you don’t get asked if you found everything you were looking for. “Did I find everything I was looking for? Well, I was looking for a sense of child-like wonder and faith in man-kind but you seem to be fresh out of those things.” “So you’re looking for Oreos, then.” “We should exchange information.”