And we buzz through everyday, barely aware that we are writing the history of tomorrow. Minutes counted down, days ticked off calendars and before you know it, today becomes yesterday.
That philosophical feeling came to me as I listened to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ on my old playlist. Here I was, singing along to a song from 1982 (yep, just googled that) when I caught myself thinking “Ah! This song really is a classic!”. The song has proved to be immensely popular, timeless… but a ‘classic’ – is it really one? Or is that territory only reserved for Beethoven’s and Mozart’s of earlier eras?
What does it take to make an artwork a classic? What does it mean to be a classic? And… which songs or books do you think will be the classics of tomorrow?
We often refer to something classic to say that it is timeless – like in my case, with the Thriller track. I thought of Jackson’s song as a classic because it was still enjoyable even now. Several years after its release, it still retained its charm. Another key factor is that a classic is usually relatable – although in an indirect way. The song is still relatable – its subject of ghosts and zombies is an age old story that we would have all heard before and yet, a story that never goes out of fashion. It contains a message that we can relate with in a different time period.
The same goes for books. Shakespeare’s tragedies haven’t lost their charm because of their extensive portrayal of human emotion – a subject that is once again, timeless. We can feel jealousy like Othello, and crave power like Macbeth even though we don’t dress or talk like them.
Relatability is perhaps a criteria that people take with a pinch of salt. Many times we refer to books as classics, not because they were very popular or because they describe a relatable human experience – but simple because they are… old. Mark Twain seems to agree with this. He once said, ” Classic: a book which people praise and don’t read.”
Not to disregard classics, of course. There may be many works which are exemplary forms of literature despite being un-relatable. Dickens’ Great Expectations is often described as a classic although in my personal opinion, I found the story quite hard to relate with. But then, is ‘classic’ truly the right word to describe them? Or maybe it’s just me.
Either way, it’s interesting to wonder what parts of our present life will become classics tomorrow! I wonder if Justin Bieber’s ‘What do you mean?’ will become a “classic” in pop music. In the future, perhaps safari scenes in films depicting this decade will play Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams”. If only we could take a sneak peek and find out!
Well, for the time being- we could just borrow MKTO’s upbeat definition. If “they don’t make you like they used to” and “You’re never going out of style”, then…. Most certainly I’d say, “Baby, you’re so classic”.
Essay by Dee & Photos by Aaria Baid