Every generation criticizes the following generation’s music. I remember people talking about the lack of talent of the musicians I listened to. “They only play power-chords.” “They scream, not sing.” “Okay, some sing, but you can’t even understand the lyrics!” “And what is with all that flannel?”
I understand. Any criticism I make of the music of today just makes me seem old and out of touch. I’m the old man screaming at kids retrieving their errant football to stay off my lawn. Every sentence I start from here on should probably begin with, “Back in my day…”
But back in anyone’s day over the age of 25, there was one thing our music had in common. It was played, at one point, (even if sampled later), someone with at least some rudimentary musical ability played it on a musical instrument. They also used their actual voices. Whether screaming, singing, or rapping…they used their voice.
“But Josh,” you say, “Haven’t studio effects & sounds been used since the beginning of recorded music?” “What about the Beatles?”
You are absolutely right. Reverb, delay…all sorts of tricks and effects have been added to music as enhancements, for a very long time. But they were added or arranged on actual songs performed by musicians written by songwriters, (often, the same people), using actual instruments and vocals.
Today’s music is so fake, that Milli Vanilli should be given their Grammy back. What did they do that isn’t being done by almost every “artist” today? They passed off songs they didn’t sing, write or perform as their own by dancing and lip-syncing to the sound broadcasted to the audience. And this is different from today’s music, how?
When a “singer” can go into a recording studio and record lyrics written for them in monotone, & have auto-tune change the pitch and notes to fit the “song”, inserting fake vocal acrobatics that would make Whitney Houston in her prime have an aneurysm-all backed by a computer created program of beeps and bass hits, that isn’t music. That is fraud.
“If you take my pulse right now it would feel like a sledge-hammer o-o-o-eE-ow-o-o.” “But the heart wants what it wa-on-on-on-on-ants.” Really? And the music critics, in an attempt to not seem like grumpy old people, trying to stay relevant, PRAISE this crap like it is good. They know it’s not good. They are pandering to the Radio Disney generation who grew up on computerized garbage. They know it’s not music. They remember being outraged by Milli Vanilli, but they are scared of seeming like grumpy old people.
Luckily, I’m not afraid of pissing off an entire generation. I’m not fighting to hold on to an ever-dwindling reader base for my once great music magazine that is being replaced by the internet. I’m not trying to stay relevant in a media age I didn’t anticipate until it was too late. My target demographic isn’t anyone who would listen to Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, or the computers that alter their voices anyway.
So I get to tell the truth. And the truth is, today’s music really isn’t music. This isn’t generational. I’m not anti-technology, I’m not totally anti-effects. I’m anti-fraud. At least Milli Vanilli’s fraud used real singers and real music. It wasn’t them, but it was real. Even with the synthesizers and keyboards…notes had to be played instead of just being typed in.
“Is it hopeless, Josh?” you ask.
No. It is not hopeless. Just because the “music” industry is currently controlled by producers who will gladly program any repeating ear-worm to put before any attractive (to 12-year-olds) kid they can teach to dance, doesn’t mean it will always be this way.
Remember, people liked disco once. Disco. Say that slowly and really think about that for a moment. Let it just roll off the tongue. Disco. And even though disco artists were vastly more talented than the “artists” of today, the music was still largely over-produced crap. So there was a backlash, and punk rock was born.
And then came the synth driven, new-wave, electronic dum-pad 80s. A rebirth of disco with a slightly newer pop feel. But there was a backlash, and early alternative music began to emerge from the shadows. Then rap or hip-hop, (honestly, I don’t know the difference, still), hit the mainstream. Oh my God, something new! And it blew up because the conditions were ripe for it. And rock wasn’t dead. Glammed up and 80s-ified, but still there. Hair metal and neon served as a refuge for the people who missed guitars and actual drums (even if they were mostly about pyrotechnics and keyboards). The 80s actually had a lot of choices. But the overproduced disco synth-pop dominated the decade.
In the early 90s, some hip-hop or rap (again, could someone actually explain the difference) gained even more mainstream popularity. A new incarnation of R&B (which, by the way, is NOT R&B as there is no blues in those songs at all, but I’m splitting hairs here) also came on the scene. Pretty, “urban” lovesongs and fun, bouncy dance music that I still enjoy when either working out, or thinking about junior high. All of this music was highly produced, and Michael Jackson and his synth-pop (with updated “urban” influence) was still #1. The critics claimed rock was dead.
They were so wrong. All the while, underground were bands and musicians that were gaining in audience and popularity. Someone would notice eventually. Enter Nirvana. I love Nirvana. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Nirvana brought rock back to the mainstream. Were it not for them, it would’ve been Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc… Bands that were playing for years outside the mainstream. Nirvana blew the scene apart, but the fuse was already lit by the overproduced void that mainstream music had become. It was just one, of many, musical revolutions. It won’t be the last.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say now, is I’ve been lying to you this entire post. Today’s music doesn’t suck. Today’s mainstream “music” does.
So, if you’re old and grumpy like me, or if you just hate what passes for the “music” today…shut off the radio, turn off the TV, unsubscribe from Iheartradio, and go out to a little dive bar still playing live music until you find something real, & good. And then get ready to be a part of the next big thing, because there will be a musical revolution. History proves it. And a little musical revolution in the face of bubble gum tyranny can be a good thing every so often.