I created a simple pop culture test for my high school students. The test was inspired by overhearing student conversations about artists and musical genres I’d never heard of.
This pop culture test defies boundaries whether they be socioeconomic, geographic, age or gender. There may, however, be a difference if you don’t live in Australia. Therefore, I will entitle the test The Australian Pop Culture Quiz and it goes like this: Name three Beatles songs and three ABBA songs.
Anyone born before, during and shortly after the 1960s always laughs at what they believe to be a stupid test. Why would students know of a Swedish band, disbanded long before they were born, yet not the lads from Liverpool?
However, people born during the late 1990s, also known as Generation Z, M, Homeland Generation, Internet or the Net Generation don’t laugh at all. In fact, confusion descends upon them quickly followed by boredom as they struggle to name a single Beatle’s song.
With some prompting the students vaguely remember singing the tedious Yellow Submarine in primary school. However, without any effort they can recall most of the lyrics to the ABBA songs Dancing Queen and Mama Mia and that the band consisted of two women and two men.
If I ask them whether they’ve heard of John Lennon they say he is a mummified guy in Russia.
So where am I going with this? Basically, it highlights two things – that The Beatle’s legacy is really no legacy at all if younger generations have never heard of them. Secondly, ABBA music has navigated the test of time more successfully than The Beatles in Australia.
My belief is that catchy lyrics and optimistic songs defy a particular era. ABBA are not so much about the 1970s as the Beatles were about the 1960s. The Beatles wrote songs about themselves, drugs, women, peace, love and renouncing material possessions. Alternatively, ABBA sang about Dancing Queens, Waterloo, the Spanish Civil War and winners taking it all.
I conclude the quiz by telling students to think of fame as fleeting and that truly influential people or ideas are not often recognised till many years later.
If you want fame to last, then best to write catchy tunes that promote an optimistic view of life. Perhaps someone should have told The Beatles.