Planet Rock

Oh no.

Oh god no.

It’s finally happened. Microsoft has embraced me. Or at least my culture and demographic.

They have a new commercial out for their Zune 3.0 software, and it’s based around Common’s Universal Mind Control, and his “inspiration” from Afrika Bambaataa.

In 1982, when I was in the 8th grade, my school (Mahalia Jackson I.S. 391) had a talent competition. I believe I sang as part of the school choir, even though I had no singing talent to speak of.

But while in rehearsals, I was privileged to see the dancers.

Oh the dancers. Tall, leggy, and defying you to believe they were only 14 or 15 years old.

They performed to Bambaataa’s Planet Rock. I had no idea what I was listening to. I can clearly remember the dancers bending and twisting on stage as they were “shot” by the lead dancer. And the soaring, high-pitched “NAH nah NAH-naaah, nah-NAAAH NAH-naaah, NAH nah NAH-nah nah-NAAAH” electronic refrain emanating from the auditorium speakers.

I didn’t know what rap was, what electronica was, or who the hell Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force were. I had just moved to the U.S. a couple years earlier. I still had my strong foreign accent, and was just discovering American music.

It was very different from what I was used to.

That song (and the image of those dancers) has stuck with me for a quarter century. It’s the earliest musical memory I have since moving to the U.S.1  And now Microsoft, in the service of their new Zune software, has referenced it, embraced it. Embraced me.

I’m not completely sure how I should feel. Is my demographic now a desirable target?

Crap.

At least I now have an excuse to rock, rock to the the planet rock.


1. I don’t remember when I first heard Rapper’s Delight, even though it came out in 1979. I might have heard when I came up the summer of ’80, and  clearly it’s stuck with me just as long, but—and here’s my point—the first time didn’t make an impression. ↩

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