Friday, June 30, 2006

Modern mainstream music

Is it just me, or does most modern mainstream music suck? My teenage brother listens to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd (as well as a ton of other classic rock); he doesn't entirely avoid newer music, but his favorite radio stations play the old stuff...
Go into any mall, and you'll find Zeppelin, Floyd, The Doors, etc. on many a t-shirt. Go to a local high school, and you'll find those same t-shirts. Music that's over 30 years old.
Did our parents in the 1960s and 1970s listen to stuff done in the '30s and '40s? Are you kidding? With great modern music being played on the radio, why listen to the old stuff? So what is my little brother (and so many other teenagers) doing? Listening to the stuff their parents listened to as teenagers? How uncool is that? Apparently not as uncool as listening to modern mainstream music.
So what is it that makes mainstream music in the 70's so cool? Maybe it's the fact that not all of the music was about sex. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that those musicians were not popular because they could dance and had nice bodies...but because they could write good music (their own music) and could actually play their own instruments (and do a good job of it). Maybe it's because they were actual...what's the word...musicians.
MTV certainly played an evil role. They still do. There's no question that it's no longer about the music. It's about selling junk to hormonified 13-year old girls. It's about image, about celebrity, about business.

A roommate of mine once made a comment along the lines of "we should respect this stuff as much as we respect good music because those doing it have good business skills." Ah yes. The old "respect something because it makes money" routine. Except it sucks. Oh, yes. How's the music business doing these days, anyway? Not so well? It's the internet's fault? All these pirates, stealing music, not paying for it? A few points:
No one wants to spend $17 for a CD that has one or two good songs on it. The internet lets us get around that problem. Who's the real criminal here, anyway?
Classic rock is more popular than ever. And everyone's dad owns some classic rock albums...why buy when you already have?
The internet allows one to hear music before buying wonder no one's buying the modern pop.
Many radio stations insist on playing the same fifteen songs over and over again. Can't think of a better way to turn a decent song into something I never want to hear again. (But, since I already despise the other fourteen songs, chances are I won't be listening to the radio anyway). Oh, and six different stations are all playing the exact fifteen-song rotation...A lack of diversity in biology leads to inbreeding (ie-incest). And incest often results in retarded children...You know where I'm going with this.
The music business (business music) has made it all about sex. But you can find sex just about anywhere these days. Music, true music...that's a bit tougher to find. The best is passionate, written from the heart, written intelligently. And people that can do that are tougher for the business types to control. Better if they can get a puppet to dance for them. If things go downhill, just cut the strings and watch the idiot (I mean puppet) fall.

I used to think that great music was rare. I used to believe that the radio was the only place to go to hear music, and it was clear that there was only so much to listen to. Then I discovered the internet. Reviews (so I no longer have to cross my fingers and hope that because Rolling Stone hates it, I'll enjoy it). Band websites that actually let you listen to the music. And if they don't, well, you can always find it somewhere else (and maybe even download it...) Internet radio, where you can find just about anything, including music on independent labels. Message boards, where, even if you don't personally know anyone who likes the same music you do, you can still talk to people who do.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to spread the word that great music is still out there. I wear a Dream Theater (the epitome of progressive metal) t-shirt, and even in Provo, Utah, it gets positive reactions, allowing me to strike up conversations asking for recommendations, and recommending bands such as Savatage and Pain of Salvation while I'm at it. I took my 16-year old brother and 14-year old sister to last year's Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. I play Savatage's "Not What You See" for anyone I think might enjoy it (a couple of family members and two good friends are now big Savatage fans). And I'm stunned when VH1 (the evil twin of sinister MTV) lists King Crimson, a progressive rock band I've never heard played on the radio, as one of the 100 greatest hard rock bands ever. Maybe there's hope for the music world after all.

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