By Bianca Betancourt
Many music listeners are currently at standstill in their relationship with music today: you either love it or you hate, with nothing really standing in between. Enthusiasts on either side of the love-hate spectrum, however, have valid reasons to picket where they stand. Let’s take a look at some of the arguments.
Why Music is the Pits…
1) Everyone is trying to be bigger than they really are
The music world has its greats, and you know that by the fact I can list them all by just their first names: Elvis, Michael, Madonna, Whitney, Mariah….I could go on. The problem with artists today is the fact that even if they are themselves monstrously talented, they’re trying too hard to emulate those who inspired them. You associate Gaga with Madonna, Chris Brown with Michael, Leona Lewis with Mariah and so on. Becoming a legend means having that spark that no one else had before you—not stealing the thunder from those who lit that spark in the first place.
2) Lack of variety
I always scold my mother whenever she can’t tell the difference between two obviously different artists. “Nooo mom, this is Ke$ha, not Katy Perry”. But at the same time, how can someone blame her? Music producers like Max Martin and David Guetta are making unfathomable amounts of money by producing dozens of songs that sound exactly alike—the only difference being the artist who sings them. Nowadays, every popular song on a major radio station has the same formula: a low pulsing introduction beat, the seductive hook leading into the catchy and repetitive chorus followed by a dubstep breakdown in the middle. And repeat.
3) The curse of overplay
Sometimes, when the music gods want to bless our ears, we’re rewarded with a fantastic song that sounds like nothing we’ve ever heard before, and the entire world loves it and we rejoice and celebrate that fact by…playing it over and over again until we hate the song just as much as we originally loved it. The perfect example? Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep“ or Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know”.
4) Superficiality over meaning
When you think of some of the stars dominating radio today (the Rihannas, Nicki Minajes and Ke$has of the world) there seems to be a loss of meaning when it comes to music in the lyrical sense. Because of the music industry’s infatuation with repetition, there’s little room left for what songs are supposed to have: emotion, meaning or depth. Only a few artists like Taylor Swift, Adele and Frank Ocean are a few who have been noted for the abilities to not only compose their own songs, but make music that lyrically connects with their fans and audiences.
5) Pop tarts over pop stars
The inventions of the internet, online social networking, and websites such as YouTube and Soundcloud have made the task of becoming a prominent artist much easier than ever before. However, to become the ultimate goal—a “star”—a record label backing an artist is sadly the only way to go. It’s hard to tell if record label executives have ever been truly about the artist or just the money, but as of today, green is all that talent managers, agents and CEOs can see. The drive for label executives to make as much as they can off of their hired talent is a major factor in what’s sucking the soul out of music today. If managers were focused on making their talent the best they can be, making music that not only will please the public but mean something to the artists themselves—overall producing a better product—a quality artist, song and album.
Why Music Still has Street Cred…
1) It makes us wanna shake what our mamas’ gave us
The music industry has been in a European-inspired dance craze for the past few years, and though the overwhelming amounts of dubstep and overpowering bass beats have started to overstay their welcome, I’m not quite ready for them to leave either! A beat that makes us want to dance, then makes us want to smile and thus we are transported into another world where all of a sudden problems have ceased and we’re getting our JLo on “on the floor”. Dance music brings out the best in us.
2) New Generation of Artists
In the past decade we’ve been introduced to a slew of new artists in every genre possible, and some aren’t even able to fit into a single genre. Rihanna has become the hottest pop-singing sex symbol around, while Ke$ha (k-dollar sign-ha!) has made millions writing the catchiest, some may say ridiculous, others may say genius dance/rap hybrid tunes and Lana Del Rey is becoming the musical savior the hipster generation has been asking for. These are the artists are children, or the next generation, will be heralding, much like how we look up to our next group that makes music today worthwhile…
3) Our oldies are still goodies
Near the end of the 20th century, we were gifted with artists that we are still loving to this day, people such as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé. These are the artists that all of the newcomers try so desperately to emulate but always fall short of. No one can belt and be as shamelessly “diirrty” as Christina; Rihanna can break as many records as she likes, but will never be half the performer Beyonce is; Justin Bieber should have considered a name change before having to succumb to lifelong comparisons of JT; and thankfully, no one has even come close to paralleling Miss Spears. No other five foot four, blonde mother of two can command an arena like she can (and that body!).
4) There’s Little Room for Mediocrity
The current music industry is more competitive than ever, so when it comes to the fight of the airwaves and what labels are signing whom, only those who can fight stay long enough to even catch our attention. With the overbearing dominance of familiar voices and newer powerhouse talent, to break into the scene today is almost impossible unless you are something completely new (e.g. Lady Gaga a few years ago, say what you will with the Madonna-wannabe comments). Though this fierce amount of competition works against those trying to break into the music industry, it only benefits music listeners—what we’re receiving on the other end of the radio waves is only the best of the best. Those artists went through hell to get their voice to reach our ears.
Whether one sees current music as a goldmine or a gutter, one can’t say that the current generation doesn’t have a respect for their elders, musically. Sampling vintage tunes has been popular since the birth of hip hop in the eighties and has carried on into the twenty-first century. More than ever before, when we’re humming along to isn’t an original melody, but a sampling of an old song from usually more than twenty years prior. Sampling connects past and present generations in a way other mediums cannot, a beautiful factor that bridges the gap between our elders and youth.