Is lack of originality strangling modern music?


I’m sure we’ve all heard it before. Whether you’re a grandmother, son, father, or granddaughter, at some point you’ll have heard that something “just isn’t as good as it used to be.” These words are usually spoken in tandem with a distracted gaze through a darkened window in a haze of longing and resentment. The listener is invariably a younger member of the family who must reluctantly shoulder the burden of a generation to keep the cynical old fool across the way happy.

More often than not, these conversations are about fashion or music. It feels like a rite of passage. No matter how young and trendy you think you are, one day your taste and sense of fashion will become nasty and outdated. A generation born in the 50s or 60s will probably have grown up with the Beatles as role models, found themselves rioting against the Sex Pistols in the 70s and dancing to The Human League in the 80s.

Their parents were subjected to the stiff upper lip and upright mindset of someone who has long steeped in ration books, Anderson shelters, blitzkrieg and propaganda. Though they may have spanned the swing pop age of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to early Beatles or Bob Dylan tracks, late 60s psychedelia and 70s punk were bitter pills to swallow.

Where we had young anarchists like Sid Vicious beating the fear of the devil in the gray hair of the 70s, we now have a generation of punk-era fathers or grandparents who writhe in anger when their sons or their girls describe one of the hip, new bands on Spotify as post-punk.

Personally, I see these patterns and I always fall victim to them. After all, isn’t your own taste better than other people’s? In the 1970s and 1980s, youth culture split into cliques often influenced by music. Do you like hitting the bong and discussing conspiracies, man? So get yourself a Volkswagen motorhome and head to San Francisco. You may be tired of happiness, sunshine and optimism; instead, you’ll apply black lipstick, eyeliner, and SPF 100 and place a Cure LP on the deck.

When a new generation is born, it wants to create an identity. In a conversation I had with Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 a few months ago, he explained to me that he grew up listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones with his parents, but found his identity in the world of music with David Bowie. sane aladdin. “I found that I was looking for music that wasn’t from my mom and dad’s time,” he said. “They were very Beatles and Stones and things like that, which I liked too, but you really want your own music. And that was the first album where they were like, ‘Oh, I don’t really like that .’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean, you don’t like this? This is fucking awesome!'”

Very few of us are strangers to such conversations; we will often seek a sense of belonging to our generation, separate from our parents and often again in our generation. We are tribal mammals, and the only thing that binds us more than mutual interest is mutual hatred.

Strangely, growing up, I came across a strong connection to my parents’ musical tastes; instead of becoming the brooding teenager listening to any noise that would make my parents fear my future, I remained clearly old school – don’t worry, I irritated my parents in other ways. This older musical taste set me apart from most of my peers at school and made me a fantastic and popular playlist arranger at family parties – very cool.

My fondness for old-time music led me to seek out like-minded people at school – in other words, music nerds. There weren’t many of us, but we found a sense of belonging to each other, just as the punks and goths had done some three decades before. We found ourselves, at first, in friendly discussions with friends explaining that the music is not as good these days as it once was. Later, I would wonder why we were born old and cynical; would I become young and optimistic like Benjamin Button?

This insatiable thirst for early music has followed me over the years, but I’ve discovered that it’s not just early music that rubs me the right way. It’s more like older pop music. I find so much modern music that I enjoy, and a lot of it is derived from a bygone era. A lot of my favorite modern music is described as post-punk. While some older purists will say post-punk is a bygone era, I’m pretty impartial. What else should we call it? Gender categorization is an unnavigable quagmire these days; if anyone needs an archaic label to describe their tastes, so be it.

So, after a little walk, I bring you back to the question of the owner, does the music die for lack of originality? I see very little real innovation in most modern pop music and almost nothing out of the ordinary in the upper echelons of the charts. However, that’s where my cynicism will stop, as you might be happy to hear. The real originality is still there, albeit in sparse representation.

A lack of originality is key to musical evolution but is not critical to broad enjoyment. We may have saturated the musical landscape, having explored most possible angles and genres, but artistically there is plenty of room to grow within the confines of niche subgenres. So if that’s not the problem, what is?

My humble inference is that the problem lies more with the consumer than with the artist, as it always will. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. While music was the main driver of a cultural revolution at the end of the 20th century, it seems to have become little more than an element to season the appeal of viral videos on TikTok.

Through most of the population’s streaming habits, people who don’t care to seek out obscure modern gems or long-lost hits will eat whatever is put in front of them on Radio 1. These artists invariably produce three-minute pieces. with unbearably catchy hooks in the first few seconds (to avoid the dreaded “jump forward” button). Accompanying lyrics will often have the artistic flair of an accountant with a calculator; the lines are formulaic, clichéd and frankly a bit sickly.

This can be attributed to a cultural shift away from music as the primary driver of social change. On the modern charts, it’s really only rap music that shows a sense of sociopolitical agenda or lyrical genius, with a scattering of isolated exceptions. I find myself wanting to blame the listeners who make pop musicians so incredibly popular, but the fault lies with the music industry itself.

Today, the industry has very little patience for small artists, especially those with a vision of personal and artistic success rather than commercial gain. In the golden age of music between the 1960s and 1990s, labels were generally much more supportive and forgiving than they are today. These days it’s all about speed, long-term recording contracts are no longer commonplace – do you have a three-minute song that has its first hook within the first ten seconds? Otherwise, there is the door. If you’re lucky enough to get a deal, the label will most often dump the artist if the first single or album isn’t an immediate hit with the public.

Another important factor is the slow and crippling death of popular concert halls. Budding artists in the 80s, for example, received fair pay for their sets in small, well-supported venues, but now artists are more often forced to play cheap or even free gigs in the hope of being able to make a big enough name. for themselves and raise the money to get into an overpriced studio.

The Music Venue Trust has been campaigning for over eight years, taking action to save our independent music venues, and with the recently added pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization is encouraging people to come back and support their talent. local on base sites. It’s great that we can still go see our beloved old rock legends play in sold-out stadiums for the price of a used car, but we have to remember that we have a future to occupy.

As Paul McCartney said in support of the organization, “If we don’t support live music at this level, then the future of music, in general, is in jeopardy.” Small concert halls are gradually being closed and succumbing to the power of sold-out concerts. This is one of the factors that we, the auditor, can help to address directly.

This approach could help reduce the reliance of smaller artists on streaming royalties. This is another factor in the aforementioned throttling. As we got rid of CDs in the 2000s, artists quickly felt the plight of illegal downloads. Later, as digital streaming platforms like Spotify bask in the limelight, we listeners have been blessed with a user-friendly app and almost anything that has been recorded and is worth listening to down the drain. fingers. Alas, apart from Adele and Ed Sheeran, the royalties paid to less listened to artists are frankly unlivable and laughable, given the titanic share of the platforms and labels siphoned off. In 2017, it was reported that musicians themselves earned just 12% of the $43 billion the industry generated during the year.

So, is lack of originality strangling modern music? No. The music industry is. Where once we encouraged creative diversity through attentive record label deals and a cult of local artists, we now risk seeing all the artistic merit of the industry gobbled up by a thirst for capital gain. For the good of budding artists and the preservation of musical diversity, go to your local concert halls. You will not regret it.

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