21 September 2012

Year 2, Day 252 (Music Is Not What It Used To Be)

Recently, while talking about music, my wife mentioned that I need to get "up to date." When on the road, I tend to listen to a lot of 70's rock, and 80's New Wave, with a few tunes mixed in from the 90's and 00's, mainly because they were songs that stood out for me. I've always maintained a couple key positions that I have come to learn about music and people. The first being that the style of music you listened to the most while you were in high school is the style that will stick with you for the rest of your life. For me, that was New Wave/Alternative (which is now referred to as "Classic Alternative"). The other position I've held is the the music industry has gone down hill over the past couple decades, with no sign of recovery. I have tried to get "up to date", but, honestly, what's out there doesn't cut the mustard. However reluctant I may be, I decided to take Tikvah's advice... perhaps music has changed.

In the past few days, I've been listening to the satellite radio stream playing the current hits, and there are a few out there that have caused me to sit up and take notice... not many, but a few. One such song actually became popular by way of a YouTube video (isn't that the way it's going nowadays?), and at first listen, I noticed (as with most "music" out there now) that it's nothing more than synth programming looped in repetition. After hearing this song a couple more times, I realized that it's underlying rhythms are infectious... about as infectious as "Party Rock Anthem" (and, actually, the two would blend great together). That song is "Gangnam Style" by an artist from Korea who goes by the name PSY:

Another song to note is one that Tikvah shared with me on Facebook of "Too Close" by British up-and-comer, Alex Clare (who's music for this song was recently used in a commercial for Microsoft Internet Explorer). Musically, it does use some current technology, but it's not overwhelming, and even adds to the lyrics, which, themselves, actually have substance and content (the video is pretty cool, too).

After listening to "the hits" (a term which, I feel, is being used loosely), I've come to realize a few things. One is that the music industry is putting music out there not entirely geared for radio airplay, but for the club scene. I say that, because those that are considered the latest hit, all seem to have the same steady kick rhythm (for the non-drummer, that refers to the bass drum) and all seem to be just a few BPM (beats per minute, a term common among D.J.'s) off from a perfect sync. After all, they have to make easy for the D.J., right? I was what you would call an "old school" D.J. The difference nowadays is that D.J.'s perform their gigs on computers. Not to take away from the technology, but the trouble there is it takes the fun out. All they have to do is pick out the songs they want to play, in the order they want them played in, and the program will do the beat-mixing for them. Back when I was spinning, we used turntables and vinyl records. We actually had to know the music (i.e. what songs have a similar tempo, what could blend well, etc.). With the turntables, there was a lever for adjusting pitch. If your incoming song was too fast or too slow, you could make the adjustment before you fade it in. We also did something known as "beat mixing" which was the art of mixing from one song to another without losing the dance beat... and was always fun, yet challenging.

For the most part, my theory is still intact... music today is not the same quality; there's no content, no structure, and more importantly, nobody is being groomed for longevity... the industry just wants what they can make into the "next big hit." I don't care for "Pound The Alarm" by Nicki Minaj, I can't stand "Whistle" by Flo Rida, and if we can get rid of Autotune, we might even get rid of a few no talent hacks in the process. Autotune is ok - if used sparingly, but when it's used throughout an entire song (Owl City does this), it gets old... QUICKLY.

Before I forget, one other good song (one of the few) is the recent offering by Train, called "50 Ways To Say Goodbye". I've never really been a big fan of theirs, but this song is catchy. It has the same steady kick beat to it (as most do, which I just mentioned), but it also underlies it with a Mariachi flavor, which gives it a unique feel. One more thing about that song (and Tikvah pointed this out... I must be rubbing off on her), try singing along to it, but instead of Train's lyrics, use the lyrics from "The Phantom Of The Opera" (yes the musical).

Go ahead... I dare you.

Shabbat Shalom!

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