The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: Song #476…Time to Pretend by MGMT (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #476: Time to Pretend by MGMT.


I imagine many of you have never heard of MGMT before and will be tempted to take one look at today’s song choice and quickly move on. DON’T! These guys are very special storytellers and you won’t be disappointed if you check out the TWO songs I will be posting of theirs today. Trust me on this! MGMT are terrific.

Let me start this post by talking about one of my favourite movies of all time, Memento. Memento was released in the year 2000 and is, arguably, the most unique and original movie I have ever seen. It is a film noir detective saga starring Guy Pearce. He plays a detective who suffers from a medical condition that causes him to have his memory wiped out every fifteen minutes. To compensate, he is constantly writing notes to himself on photographs, scraps of paper, on himself and then, having to try to figure out what the notes and hints mean when his memory goes. This movie won the Academy Award for Best Editing, which may seem like a funny award to boast about but, because of the nature of the storyline and the way the movie was edited, the plot advances by going backwards, constantly, in loops, all throughout the movie as Pearce struggles to put the clues together to solve the murder of his wife. The non-linear structure of Memento was unlike anything I have ever seen before or since. It was a totally original take on the traditional storytelling structure.

This song, “Time To Pretend” by MGMT is like the movie, Memento. It is such a cleverly written and structured song! It is a song that begins with a forward-looking vision and ends with reflective, backward yearning. It is a sweet, sweet song about the energy and ambition of teens on the cusp of adulthood; all ready to get out there and take on that world. But, as all of you already know, becoming an adult is a Faustian bargain that continually balances freedom and choices with responsibilities and consequences. This song, as it ends, becomes a wistful meditation on how the structure of adulthood tends to be such that we lose the child-like part of ourselves given to wonder and imagining, to pretending and playfulness. I really enjoyed scrolling through the Comments section of the video for this song. Half of the comments were from teens stating that the song/video was awesome and they couldn’t wait to taste the freedom of adulthood. The other half of commenters were older and stated that, come ten or fifteen years, this song is going to make all of those same teens cry and their hearts break once they realize what they are about to lose by simply growing up.

It takes an imaginative mind and a gift for storytelling to create a song that half of the listeners feel is about their future, while the other half simultaneously think is about their past. “Time to Pretend” was the debut single off of MGMT’s very first album called Oracular Spectacular. The video for this song is one of pure imaginative fun. It is comparable to something you might have seen on Monty Python or some of The Beatles later work. It is said to have been influenced by the book, Lord of the Flies. But, for the most part, it is a wide-open romp through the imaginations of MGMT’s two creative muses, singer Andrew VanWyngarden and keyboardist, Ben Goldwasser. As a band, MGMT (which stands for “Management”) have been together since 2002 and are still actively performing to this day.

As is the case with all bands I post about, I look up their histories and look to see if they have won awards. Well, MGMT have won several awards including The New Music Express Award in 2008 for Best New Song (“Time to Pretend”), Best Album, (Oracular Spectacular) and Best New Band. In 2014, they won a video award for a song called, “Cool Song No. 2”). Needless to say, I checked out that video and was blown away by it, as well. It is a song and story that plays out like a fully-realized movie. It is very stylish and futuristic and, initially, I didn’t know what it was about. But, as the song/video rolls along, it becomes clear that it is a treatise on watching the one you love dying from a disease and the lengths you will go to bring comfort and a peaceful resolution to their pain. This video won as Video of the Year for a reason and is well worth watching in the Comments Section below.

I am not sure if my recommendations hold much sway with you, dear reader but, if they do, let me simply say that out of all of the songs I have posted about so far in this project, “Time to Pretend” by MGMT is my favourite. These guys are inventive storytellers, who tackle big ideas in playful and/or beautifully-artistic ways. Their work will touch your heart and your soul and will have you thinking while your toes are tapping. Please enjoy “Time To Pretend” and the bonus video, “Cool Song No.2” below. Thanks for reading.

The link for the music video for Time To Pretend by MGMT can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link for the music video that won the 2014 Video of the Year, Cool Song No. 2 by MGMT, can be found here.

MGMT have a wicked website that is well worth exploring. The link to that website can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for promoting artists such as MGMT. Your work, and their music, help to make our world a better and more enjoyable place to be. The link to their website can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared without the express written consent of the author. ©2021

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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