© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Once in a Lifetime

Once in a Lifetime

by Talking Heads

Setting

“Once in a Lifetime” is an extremely ‘80s song. When many people talk about the 1980s—especially the American culture of the time—it is with disdain or disappointment. Why did we wear shoulder pads? Did people really spend $50 a week on hairspray? Didn’t they know they were creating a hole in the ozone layer? And what were we dancing to?! Musicians like to balk at their '80s music, too; David Bowie says he doesn't want to remember those years. Dramas set back the '80s tended to focus on criticizing the yuppies—or young-urban-professionals—for their ruthless pursuit of the (white) suburban dream of a big house, a beautiful wife (that will obey you), and lots of money. A prime example is 2000's American Psycho (based on the 1991 novel of the same name), set in the late ‘80s, in which the yuppie main character is a mass murderer.

Some people even claim that the only good thing to come out of the '80s were those John Hughes teen movies like The Breakfast Club (1985) and movies and music that criticize the '80s like we do. A lot of writing about artists that are undeniably great but undeniably '80s has to do with making sure that they were aware enough in their music to only be ironically playing into '80s yuppie culture, so when Talking Heads wrote "Once in a Lifetime," that is what we got. Many of us would like to think that the ‘80s were as ironic as the current hipster culture that emulates the Decade of Decadence is, but the truth is that people were just genuinely happy to be alive and doing crazy stuff to their hair, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement