Monday 19 November 2012

Is music dead?

Country music today has degenerated into pop with the occasional fiddle, and pop has degenerated into defiantly stupid dance music. And all black music, the source that gave the world blues, jazz, rock and soul, has been sucked into the vortex of rap, which essentially consists of juvenile bathroom-wall poetry over a really really loud drum track. And then singing teenagers from Disney, and contest winners. That is the music of today.

Of all the musicians to come on the scene in the last twenty years, the ten biggest sellers have been the Backstreet Boys, Andrea Bocelli, Rihanna and Beyonce, Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas, Shania Twain, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, and Taylor Swift. How many of their songs will be remembered, decades down the road? “Hit Me One More Time”? “Feel Like A Woman”? “What I Really Want”? “You Belong To Me”?

Ah, yes, I remember our wedding day, twirling on the floor, to our song, “My Humps”.

The second batch of top sellers after them: Robbie Williams, Usher, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias, Adele, Jay-Z….and it just goes downhill from there. So, any songs in there that will live forevermore? “Paparazzi”? “Rolling In The Deep”?

Look at the biggest song in each of the last twenty years. The only ones anyone can actually remember are “I Will Always Love You”, “Whoomp There It Is”, the Macarena, “Believe" by Cher, “California Girls” by Katy Perry and the Adele song.


Not to get all "get off my lawn" on you people, but compare today's sorry state of affairs to the albums we got just from one year, 1975, with records like Born to Run, Physical Graffiti, Wish You Were Here, A Night at the Opera, Rocky Horror, the Tommy soundtrack and Tubular Bells.

In 1975 we got a pile of great albums from singer-songwriters and the like, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, James Taylor, Carole King, Olivia Newton John, Judy Collins, Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Joan Baez, John Denver, Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian. The former members of CSN&Y produced a total of four albums between them. In one year.

In 1975 the black community unloaded a mountain of music from Parliament, Earth Wind and Fire, the Isley Brothers, Funkadelic, Curtis Mayfield, the Spinners, Smokey Robinson, Donna Summer, the Pointer Sisters, Al Green, the Commodores, the O’Jays, Sly Stone, the Temptations, the Staples, Patti Labelle, James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Barry White, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, Roberta Flack, and Kool and the Gang. All in one year.

In 1975 there was an explosion of music from the outlaws: Waylon Jennings, the Band, Tom Waits, the Outlaws, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat, the Charley Daniels Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs, the Allman Brothers and ZZ Top.

In 1975 the world of jazz gave us works from Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Weather Report, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Manhattan Transfer, Dexter Gordon and George Benson.

In 1975 the kings of the music world were still cranking it out: three of the four Beatles had albums out, and the Stones, and the Who, and of course Led Zeppelin. The old dinosaurs like the Kinks still had their teeth, and the Hollies, the Four Seasons, Manfred Mann, the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, the Beegees, Eric Clapton, and even Elvis Presley.

In 1975, people who wanted to rock out could buy new albums from Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Jethro Tull, Jeff Beck, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad, Kiss, Deep Purple, ACDC, Jimi Hendrix (posthumously), BTO, Journey, the Doobie Brothers and Peter Frampton.

In 1975 the old blues guys who started it had albums out, showing everyone how it was done, like Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters.

In 1975 progressive rock gave us albums from Renaissance, Kraftwerk, King Crimson, Rick Wakeman, Rush, and Styx.

In 1975 people bought new kinds of music by the ton, from Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Roxy Music, ELO, Supertramp, War, Abba, KC and the Sunshine Band, Rod Stewart and Chicago.

In 1975 David Bowie, Lou Reed and Suzie Quatro warned us that punk and new wave were around the corner; Bob Marley let us know that reggae and world music were coming.

All that in one year. And it was like that through the late sixties and throughout the seventies. Then all these great streams of music seemingly dried up at once, in the 1980s. Rock mocked itself with Nirvana and Hootie and the Blowfish. Soul and R&B died without warning. Hard rock turned into hair metal. Singer-songwriters ran out of things to write. Country lost its balls; the outlaws died off or sobered up, and meanwhile the punks overdosed, or aged into comfortable British commercials for household products. People like Springsteen and Prince and Madonna and Michael Jackson tried to keep music alive, but how much original music have they produced in the last decade or so?

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