By Anna

An acquaintance of mine said the world would be a better place if everyone listened to a little more of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and a little less of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.”

I’ve hated Mayer’s 2006 single since the first day I heard it—pretentious and inconsequential Mayer sings: “One day our generation/Is gonna rule the population/So we keep on waiting/Waiting on the world to change.”

Eighteen years previously Jackson sang: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.”

One is better, but both portray a snippet of a generation. Just when the baby boomers thought ideas and music couldn’t get any worse than the Generation X’s selfish songs, it did. I came out of the womb—not with a latte and a cell phone—to cheers and open arms as part of Generation Y. I’ve battled with the accusations that my generation needs affirmation in order to work hard: “Where is the intrinsic motivation?” my basketball coach—with a gambling addict for a wife—yelled across the gym.


I thought we were motivated, just tired of practicing that day. It’s been six years since then and I’ve finally come to acknowledge that extrinsic motivation of any kind is the home computer of Generation Y, including John Mayor’s need for attention (though he may classify as a Gen-Xer, his music speaks to the Ys). Extrinsic affirmation (record sales) isn’t enough for him and it’s clear from Rolling Stone’s perspective (Feb. 4, 2010) that Mayer’s missing something. Not to say that Mayer doesn’t work hard, but he seems to be doing a lot of hanging out and waiting around.

Whereas Jackson, fixture of the Gen-Xers and much abused by the public, was only ever gracious and demanding of himself in his own goofy way.

The baby boomers stopped the Vietnam War.

Generation X partied because of it.

And Generation Y sees no consequence of any action they take in spite of it.

Popular music is changing, some for the better, but clearly some for worse, returning to a previous generation’s grievances and truths isn’t entirely possible, but it’s worth trying.

“No message could’ve been any clearer: if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.” —Jackson.