Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Music Theory

Hey y'all.  So, I was thinking about something, and I'm going to present the idea to you for consideration.  I've noticed lately that music has undergone a serious change.  Now, if you look back at music from, say, the sixties to the nineties, you'll notice that music has remained, for the most part, a pretty fun thing.  Music was always designed during this period to simply bring people to the dance floor, and it was a fun experience.  And now, if you go back to the nineties, you'll find that the music even that short time ago was very much different from today's.  It was fun, and dared to be goofy.

Do you even see music daring to be goofy like that very much today?  It takes itself far too seriously.  Now, it's all about the lyrics, and all the artists are too busy singing arrogant songs about themselves to really pay much attention to their audience.  Now, that's not to say that all music since the nineties is crap, but the more you think about it, you notice certain things.  This is where you come in.  Think about the recent music you listen to, and see if it has these things --

Modern music tends to:
1. Be about the singer.
2. Have a lot more lyrics.
3. Have a lot simpler lyrics.
4. Have a really simplistic musical background.
5. Sound all alike.

Now, I guess it's fine for songs to be about the singer sometimes, but really, it's getting pretty egotistical.  Seriously, look up the lyrics to your song.  Now think to yourself, do you really want to know all of this about the singer?   Sometimes these lyrics are the "universal I", meaning it's a song that connects to a feeling in all of us, but how many of them really are that way and not just about the singer in general?

I guess up there I really should put, to be more specific, that music is sacrificed to lyrics.  Two and four up there are connected.  The songs these days are so full of words that they think just any electronic buzz will suffice as a background.  This has happened especially in the past three or so years.  One time I was at the beach, and they were playing the radio at a swimsuit store.  So many of the songs (and this is where point five comes in) were simply some person rapping or half rapping over a really buzzy, boring background.  It was shocking to hear this.  Two completely different artists sounded basically exactly the same (one was a girl and the other a dude, so they were slightly different) because they did your run of the mill rap and buzz.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not necessarily anti-rap.  It's a perfectly legitimate art form.  Trouble is, it can't hold a song all by itself.  Even with a hook, all you get is a bunch of ringtone rappers (haven't you heard this term before?).  And when you've got a song of nothing but rap, it doesn't really have any of the lyrical ups and downs that deep songs usually have.  And also, why are all these pop artists trying so hard to rap?  If you're not good at it, you shouldn't try to make money off of it.

It would be one thing if the multiplicity of lyrics meant a greater amount of poetry.  Not really.  There may be some poets out there who use words that are complex and deep, but they're being overwhelmed by the people who think "shizzle" is an acceptable substitute.  Come on, where's your metaphors?  Your few words that proclaim more emotion than an entire motivational speech?  And come on, rap is related to techno and trance!  Can't the people generating the beats for the rap's background at least try to attain the creativity of techno and pop?  Though to be fair, techno isn't always as creative as it could be.

And I'm not just picking on rap here.  Actually, the problem seems to be coming from pop, as both rap and country are drifting towards the simplicity and dull machinery of pop.  You can tell the difference especially in country.  If you listen to older country (think "O Brother Where Art Thou?") you hear poetry, complex meanings, and music that is fun even if you don't like country.  You can respect it for being what it is.  However, modern country is basically pop with hick accents.  It amazes me that someone like Taylor Swift can get country awards these days, even though Taylor Swift's stuff, sadly, demonstrates a lot of the things that are wrong with pop music.  I should show you a sample.

"Standing by and waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know?Baby, you belong with me, you belong with me
Oh, I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the nightI'm the one who makes you laugh when you know you're 'bout to cryAnd I know your favorite songs and you tell me 'bout your dreamsThink I know where you belong, think I know it's with me."
Huh, poetic, yes?  Yeah, not really.  Actually, let me find Kelly Clarkson.  She's a better example.
"Here's the thing we started out friendsIt was cool but it was all pretend
Yeah yeah
Since U Been Gone

You dedicated you took the time
Wasn't long till I called you mine
Yeah Yeah
Since U Been Gone

And all you'd ever hear me say
Is how I pictured me with you
That's all you'd ever hear me say"

Kelly Clarkson's not exactly much of a poet here either.  Sorry about the weird font color.  Blogger copy/paste is weird.  Anyway, you can find better poets at your local high school.  Is this even trying?

This is not to say that Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift (and any number of pop stars, you name them) are completely talentless hacks.  Maybe some are (judge this for yourself), but for the most part, it simply seems to be the nature of music.  It seems that people who look interesting or have the biggest egos can simply force their way into music and do whatever the crap they want.  It's hard to determine if this is due to the industry itself, or to the people who want to join the industry.  I mean, talk to an artist.  They're not contradicting the industry in interviews.  

But I'll leave that up to whoever wants to research it.  My theory is this: that September 11th did something to destroy music.  Think about it.  Before hand, we have the cheesy fun nonsense that was the Backstreet Boys.  Now we have the faker than fake Lady Gaga.  Back in the day we could enjoy silliness for the sake of silliness, and now all the artists take themselves far too seriously.  Seriously, have you ever listened to good nineties stuff?  Cheese!  

Not that this has much to do with anything, but try finding a JC Penney catalog from the nineties.  I lived through the nineties and I was shocked to see what it sold.  And people make fun of the eighties...

In any case, it really seems like Sept 11th has done something to music, or if not that specifically, something about that time period.  But honestly, what is big as that to have created such a change?  I realize that the roots of this change do go back many decades.  If you look at bands like the Beatles or Michael Jackson, you will see that artists have been following in their example and trying to get as popular as them by pandering to pop philosophy.  Thus, the philosophy itself (and, may we say it, the drug use) became more important than the music.  Downfall was imminent.

But even looking at stuff like that, you have to notice that even when the Beatles and the other bands of that period were through, music wasn't the way it is today.  We still had the eighties and nineties to go through, and fun music reigned supreme.  What happened if not Sept 11th?  

I could be wrong.  Do you have anything to add to this?  Feel free to adjust/disagree with my points, or add ones of your own.  Here's a few links to illustrate my points.  The first two are links to the modern song Firework, by Katy Perry.  One is sung by Katy, and the other by a youtuber who calls himself Jontron.  The difference between the two is their (1) passion, (2) occupation, and (3) how cheesy they're trying to be.  Which do you like better?

Note that this same change in music has spread into foreign countries.  It took some time, but because American music does get around, the foreigners have to watch themselves to make sure they don't catch pop disease too.  Poor South Korea...anyway, here's an earlier song by the band Turtles, which illustrates the sort of musical background that is more culturally Korean.  It came out in the early aughts (as naturally the change would affect them later than in the US).  The latter is a more modern Korean song.   Notice how "pop" it sounds.

So, what's your opinion on the matter?

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