Yet another music expert and critic says that today’s popular songs suck

I’ve long argued that today’s music sucks, well aware that for saying this I’ll be accused of being a curmudgeon who simply likes his generation’s music and can’t make way for the innovations of the new kids.

My response to that accusation is threefold: that there are no groups today that even begin to rival the great groups of the Sixties, including the Beatles, the Doors, Santana, and so on; that oldies stations twenty years from now will still be playing the Beatles and not Maroon 5 or Ariana Grande; and that somebody had to live through the era of the most innovative rock and pop music that existed, and those people just happen to be me and my peers.

I’ve also defended my views in a very popular post comparing the top-selling songs of my day and these days (see also here). There was no comparison: look at the lists of the top 20 Billboard songs.

You know I’m right, don’t you? And if you don’t, well, you can take a number, get in line, and . . .

But now we have more objective measures of rock quality. Below is a new article from the New York Times claiming that today’s songs are louder and having a more compressed dynamic range compared to rock songs of yore and also (a more arguable claim) that people easily tire of loud, compressed music. There are other articles (I won’t list them all) showing that using various indices, pop music has become worse on a number of fronts. One website lists 5 studies that were themselves summarized by the BBC. The SCIENTIFIC RESULTS:

1. Pop music has become slower — in tempo — in recent years and also “sadder” and less “fun” to listen to.
2. Pop music has become melodically less complex, using fewer chord changes, and pop recordings are mastered to sound consistently louder (and therefore less dynamic) at a rate of around one decibel every eight years.
3. There has been a significant increase in the use of the first-person word “I” in pop song lyrics, and a decline in words that emphasize society or community. Lyrics also contain more words that can be associated with anger or anti-social sentiments.
4. 42% of people polled on which decade has produced the worst pop music since the 1970s voted for the 2010s. These people were not from a particular aging demographic at all — all age groups polled, including 18-29 year olds, appear to feel unanimously that the 2010s are when pop music became worst. This may explain a rising trend of young millennials, for example, digging around for now 15-30 year-old music on YouTube frequently. It’s not just the older people who listen to the 1980s and 1990s on YouTube and other streaming services it seems — much younger people do it too.
5. A researcher put 15,000 Billboard Hot 100 song lyrics through the well-known Lev-Zimpel-Vogt (LZV1) data compression algorithm, which is good at finding repetitions in data. He found that songs have steadily become more repetitive over the years, and that song lyrics from today compress 22% better on average than less repetitive song lyrics from the 1960s. The most repetitive year in song lyrics was 2014 in this study.

Conclusion: There is some scientific evidence backing the widely voiced complaint — on the internet in particular — that pop music is getting worse and worse in the 2000s and the 2010s. The music is slower, melodically simpler, louder, more repetitive, more “I” (first-person) focused, and more angry with anti-social sentiments. The 2010s got by far the most music quality down votes with 42% from people polled on which decade has produced the worst music since the 1970s.

Now read the Times article:

The icing on the cake: here’s the Billboard Top 10 from exactly 50 years ago (Feb. 8, 1969; sadly, #1, not shown, is “Crimson and Clover”, a pseudopsychedelic snoozer by Tommy James and the Shondells):

Today’s top 10 (#1, even more unfortunately, is “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande Latte):

There are at least three classics in the 1969 list: “I heard it through the grapevine,” “Touch me” (my favorite Doors song), and “I’m gonna make you love me.” But “Worst that could happen,” “I started a joke,” and “Everyday people” are no slouches in the song department, either.

Is there any song on today’s list that will last like the ones from 1969? I doubt it.

So get off my lawn!

 

177 Comments

  1. Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    My perceptions as well, thanks for the scientific validation!

  2. dd
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    The society is dumbed down.(Look at its elite newspapers today and then read what let’s say, the New York Times, was like even 30 years ago.)

    So, only to be expected that its music gets dumbed down with it.

    I do exercise classes and much of it is geared to that and clubs.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Back in the days when NYT had stylists like Russell Baker and William Safire, reporters like “Johnny” Apple.

  3. dd
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh, one more note: Do people really listen to it, like one listend to a Bach partita?

    My impression is that it’s geared toward background as you play on your phone, internet, etc etc….

  4. garman
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Though I agree that no music matches that produced by the Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown, Sly & the Family Stone, the Byrds, Dylan, CCR, Otis, etc, I wonder how the fragmentation of music sources affects the data. Fifty years ago there was but one “chart”. A great majority of people heard music from just one source, radio. Could it be that complex, valuable music is still being created and yet isn’t appearing on the Billboard Hot 100? Wishful thinking?

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Yep. Wishful thinking. I always hear “you haven’t listened to X yet!”, and so I go listen and it’s not even close to the quality of the best music of the Sixties. These kinds of arguments remind me of theologians who tell me “You haven’t read X yet on the Problem of Evil.”

      • Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        I suspect that it reflects how good A&R people and the industry have become at predicting what will sell: they need to get money back on their millions of dollars investment. A certain type of production, song, voice and look are templates, that’s just the way it is.

        I was listening to “Quick Joey Small” by Kasenatz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus from 1968, an explicitly bubble-gum pop tune, moderately successfully aimed at 12 year-olds. The singer sounds like Dr. John. Never in a million years would Simon Cowell contemplate having a gravel-voiced singer aimed at the teen market. Things have changed, one of which is the tedious homogenization of chart-topping vocalists – the nasal whine and the ersatz self-pity of shallow, borrowed soul.

        • darrelle
          Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          Glad to see you pop in Dermot. I always enjoy reading your comments. I particularly like your final sentence.

          • Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            Thank you, Darrelle. I have been spending far too much online time “debating” fruitlessly with monotheists whose every response would be marked in chess notation with “!?”. Why do I bother, if not in the vain hope that somewhere down the line they might think that guy actually had a point?

            • darrelle
              Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

              Sisyphus, except voluntarily.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 9, 2019 at 4:20 am | Permalink

                Yeah, probably catch that from them, too.

                😉

                cr

      • Posted February 7, 2019 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        Jerry, you like Sixties music, which of course was produced in the 1960s. There are still many bands that sound like then, or have a similar musical language, e.g. the Lemon Twigs (beatlesque) or Brian Jonestown Massacre (rollingstoneseque).

        There are also many more that take a page or two, but innovate, e.g. Beck, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, the psycheleic lo fi corner with Ariel Pink, Jacco Gardner and so on. I listen to a lot of psychedelic music, shoegaze and freak folk and that’s teeming with releases.

        It IS fragmentation. Few tracks would receive airplay and become memorable in yesteryear. Today, you are just not exposed enough to such songs until you recognize and like them, and you aren’t in formative years anymore. What’s more, there is simply too much to make meaningful recommendations, it can only be a stab in the dark.

      • Jair
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 1:22 am | Permalink

        Wishful thinking that there exist people still making good music? Really? In a planet of seven point something billion people, there is not one meets your standards? Statistically, that is very unlikely. Maybe hold out some hope for humanity.

        I will concede on the billboard top 100. But for me, that stuff has been mostly been unlistenable since the 1980’s when I was born. Since pop music has always been terrible, from my experience, it is not surprising that it continues to be terrible.

        Without knowing more about what kind of music you are looking for it is hard to recommend anything. But there’s always Rodrigo y Gabriela.

        • Posted February 8, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          True. “Pop” music is unlistenable. But there is a lot of indie music out there that matches the musical sophistication of the late ’60s and 1970s (eg, CSNY, Joni Mitchell, etc), but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack for a 70-yr-old like myself.

        • Andrea Kenner
          Posted February 9, 2019 at 6:50 am | Permalink

          Nice!

          I would like to put Pink’s What About Us out there as a listenable recent (2017) song. You might call it “whiny,” but I think it makes a good point about the breakdown of American society and about people wanting and deserving more. Have a listen… https://youtu.be/ClU3fctbGls

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    One of the additional reasons why the music is going down hill today based on something I read recently – two or three people are writing all the songs for several of the top singers today. They all sound alike.

    Of course I stopped listening to music many years ago so what do I know.

    • Christopher
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Only a handful of writers for the lyrics and a handful of computer files for the “music”, and the “singer” has to rely on technology in order to hit the correct notes. When you take the human out of the equation you get what passes for music these days. Call me a fuddyduddy if you like but there’s a reason why I can enjoy the last several hundred years of music up until the last 10, 15 years.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I listen to this stuff, I can’t conjure the image of an actual living-&-breathing human playing an actual instrument anywhere on it.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I have heard the same thing. And, also consider the caliber of people who are big in the music industry, like Simon Cowell. Colin Irwin, a british music critic, says Cowell and the British music industry for not having an original idea in their heads. This has spread to the US and is clearly seen on shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent where any singer/songwriter who has a unique and musically interesting approach is quickly voted off by the judges.

  6. Charlie Jones
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    A couple of years ago I went through a bunch of yearly top-ten song lists with my kids. It was an interesting exercise to go though!

    I played at least half of the songs from a given year, and move forward a couple of years. Around 2000 the top-ten songs all became completely forgettable and auto-tuned. I was shocked at how bad they all were! Things picked up again I think in the late 2000 and early 2010s, but since then I think they have again collapsed. My kids, now in high school, have essentially no songs from their high school years to remember fondly as adults!

    This why the college kids that I know of stopped listening to the radio at least as far back as 2000. They also generally never watch TV, opting instead to stream. (I like to ask my students about this in the classes I teach)

  7. Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    My preteen kids are well aware, and agree with me, that too many of today’s songs are “whiny” (“Please don’t break up with me”, “Please don’t leave me”, “Why don’t they love me”, “My life sucks”, etc.), and that we are changing the station the moment when one of them comes on.

    Personally, if I was a popular singer, I would want to create a few songs that would become classics and would be played regularly years from now. Yet I’m quite confident that we will rarely hear any Ariana Grande (and similar artists) songs on the radio 10+ years from now. She’ll be another Tiffany or Debbie Gibson. On the other hand, there are some artists I’ve never liked, whose songs keep getting played, and I can’t quite understand why (eg. I find no redeeming features to the song “Red Red Whine” – as I call it).

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Red, Red, Wine is a song for people who don’t really like reggae who nevertheless want to claim to like reggae.

      • Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        I am proud to say that I walked out on UB40 after two and a half songs in Brum 6 months before they made it massive. I never got my 25p back: the support band, The Denizens, were terrific, and they sank without trace.

        • Simon Hayward
          Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          I agree, it’s hard to make predictions (especially about the future – per Berra). A friend saw an Irish band called U2 at a pub in West Hampstead and confidently predicted that they would go nowhere. I saw the Police in a bar at KCL, and they were great, but there was prob only 50 people there (4 bands for a pound), their progress could easily have turned out differently. I saw many groups that I thought were of that standard playing small London venues that disappeared without a trace.

          However, the point about writing their own songs was made above, and I agree that these were not cookie cutter groups. They had ideas and in many cases served “apprenticeships” learning the business by playing night after night.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        ‘Red, Red Wine’ was written and recorded (1967) by Neil Diamond, who has regularly performed it in his countless concerts. Thus in no sense originally a reggae song (though in 1983 UB-40 were covering an island version from 1969).

        So: 1967, 1969, 1983. . . .

        What’s ‘whine’ vinegar for you is a well-aged vintage bottle for others.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 9, 2019 at 4:24 am | Permalink

        Huh?

        Oh, you mean UB40’s version.

        Not, I presume, Neil Diamond’s original. Neil was never reggae, that I can recall.

        cr

  8. Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Sixties, yes …

    However:

    • freiner
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Now here’s a coincidence I can easily live with. I started reading your list just a minute or so after I had put on “I Get a Kick Out of You” played by Paul Desmond with Jim Hall, Percy Heath and Connie Kay. I haven’t heard the Maroon 5 version yet.

      • Frank Bath
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        And I’m gonna hear ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ & ‘Night and Day.’ Good night folks.

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      Summer Winds by Frank Sinatra. A masterpiece of popular music, imo. The structure still blows me away.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 5:55 am | Permalink

        You can SING it – sing it out, across the sand, to the blue – natural themes.

    • Cate Plys
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      Fair point!

  9. Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    There is excellent music today, as good as there was in any decade, but it can be hard to find. Most radio stations play top 40 garbage. Worse (at least in Canada) is that there has been a consolidation of media ownership, so that most radio stations are owned by the same company. That leads to predictable programming. Long gone are the days when DJs played what they want.

    This might be more important: there has been research that strongly suggests that a person’s musical tastes are unchangeable after a certain age. I think ages 14 to 24 were mentioned. After that, no one has a chance of changing your mind.

    See, for example: https://mic.com/articles/96266/there-s-a-magic-age-when-you-find-your-musical-taste-according-to-science#.vD6l3vZUN

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    … that oldies stations twenty years from now will still be playing the Beatles and not Maroon 5 or Ariana Grande …

    I watched and heard Ms. Grande belt out “Natural Woman” at Aretha’s funeral. Makes me wonder why, with pipes like that, she puts out music that sounds as though it pours forth straight from a machine, unnurtured by human hand or soul.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      The same critique was made of Whitney Houston back in the 80’s. Great voice with bland middle of-the-road pop material.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Let’s hope she gets to the point where she’s made enough money, her voice is completely mature (around 30), and she can take on challenges just for the music’s sake. Lady Gaga seems to have done this.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 3:52 am | Permalink

      Voices are like wheat. Great pipes can be used to render an interesting artisanal product, or to pinch out yet another loaf of aural Wonder Bread.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m no judge. I literally have never heard of some of the artists from the second chart. My wife listens to contemporary music, but when we’re in the car together, it’s the 80s channel. Personally, I am still trying to catch up with music from last century; I’ve got a long time before I worry about music from this decade.

  12. carpevita
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Your conclusion about pop songs seem reasonable, but does that necessarily mean “no groups today that even begin to rival the great groups of the Sixties”? Could it be that due to the distribution model of the digital age that we are more selective over our music and that may dilute the market share of otherwise great bands?

    I guess I am saying it’s one thing to note that pop songs (however those are measured) are repetitive, etc. And even that of a greater percentage of bands use unappealing techniques to broaden their immediate appeal. But to say that there are _no_ great groups today to rival the Sixties seems a stretch.

    What about bands like Wilco, who I feel is on par with many of the greats?

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson’s work in general is on par. But I think Jerry is talking about pop music. Wilco isn’t pop imo, and either are my favorite contemporary bands. Spirituality also defies the pop moniker.

  13. JezGrove
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    It might come as a shock, but the Beastie Boys formed 38 years ago this year…

    • darrelle
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. Thanks for reminding me.

      I think the Beastie Boys were great. The kids like them too. A few years ago (shit, probably 8 by now) I introduced them to Intergalactic Planetary and Sabotage. They made me play them constantly.

      • Mark R.
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        I think their best was “Check Your Head”. If the kids like the two you mention, they’re going to like CYH which is sort of the architecture of the two albums you cite.

        • darrelle
          Posted February 8, 2019 at 6:30 am | Permalink

          Definitely a good one.

  14. Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Many of my undergraduate students say to me that “y’all (1980s) had way better music than we do but way worse clothes.” I concur.

    The 2nd British invasion of the ’80s, bands like The Cure, The Fixx, The Clash, Depesche Mode…) made great music in many ways equal to Jerry’s generation.

    And, in 1980, Joan Jett did a great cover of…Crimson and Clover.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      I do like Joan’s cover much better than the original.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        When TJ & the Shondells released “Crimson & Clover,” they were still riding the popularity from their big novelty hit, “Hanky Panky.”

  15. Howard S Neufeld
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Jerry on this, but don’t leave out the 50s either – doo-wop and such were fun to sing, had great melodies, absurd stories (like your girlfriend dies from a train wreck) even if nearly every song has the same chord structure (C, F, A,G, repeat).

    But what about classical music? 85-90% of the music played by orchestras today comes from music written more than 100 years ago, much of between Mozart and Shostakovich/Copeland. Yet, if you were to go to a concert in late 19th century, the music being played would have been largely by the three Bs and contemporary composers. Today, modern classical music is relegated to the special concert to highlight such music, or not at all, and the majority of pieces played are the old standards.

    Do composers no longer write music the public wants to hear? Certainly Phillip Glass and his ilk write a lot of music, but it’s boring, uninteresting, lacks melody, and often doesn’t make full use of an orchestra.

    Today, the best “classical” music comes from movie composers. Am I wrong? I think not.

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      My wife always listens to Classic FM (a British classical music radio station) in the car. So much of the recent music it plays is by film composers like John Williams and Danny Elfman that I’ve become convinced that ‘FM’ actually stands for ‘film music’.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you about Glass and many of the other ‘minimalists’. Their music goes round and round and never gets anywhere. I find the lack of musical development frustrating and almost painful to listen to.

      But there are many contemporary composers who have a large and loyal base of enthusiasts. In the UK, for instance, most concerts that include a new work by, say, Thomas Ades, James Macmillan or Mark-Anthony Turnage are likely to be sellouts. Their best works are also likely to get repeat performances and to stay in the repertoire. Maybe they don’t have the blanket exposure that the pop industry gives its clones, but then they’re not really aiming for that.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        Agree about Glass, though I think his music has worked well in some of the documentaries he’s scored, like Errol Morris’s Thin Blue Line and Fog of War.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Glass was (and still is) in the much derided minimalist school. However look at his contemporaries John Adams and Steve Reich and you’ll find much to admire there.

    • TJR
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      I highly recommend the BBC4 documentary “Tones, Drones and Arpeggios: The Magic of Minimalism”.

      Fascinating stuff, including interviews with Glass, Reich et al. I suspect it will make almost anyone think that there might be something to this minimalism lark after all.

      One of the composers (Reich?) commented along the lines that he didn’t like the term minimalism because “it makes me sound like a simpleton”.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      I feel compelled to put in a good word for Philip Glass (though the attempt to get someone to like something she or he doesn’t is usually futile).

      In recent listening, I have been transfixed––no other word will do––by Glass’ Piano Concerto #3, as performed by Simone Dinnerstein and the Far Cry Chamber Orchestra. Won’t go on about it but simply say that the familiar idioms of the composer’s minimalism––obstinato, arpeggiation, repitition, oscillation and so on––function to advance his musical ideas, with Dinnerstein doing great expressive work on the keyboard while the small orchestra provides both support and its own forward energy.

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    “Everyday People” is the best o’ the bunch, you ask me. I freakin’ love Sly. He could be a difficult perfectionist and a bit of a prick (especially when it came to being a no-show for concerts). But he was hugely influential — no Sly, no Funk; no Sly, no Fusion; no Sly, no Psychedelic Soul (which prolly woulda saved the Temptations some embarrassment, but still …).

    • revelator60
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Agreed—I think “Everyday People” is a greater classic than anything else on that excellent list (aside from “Grapevine”). Sly had a knack for making incredibly catchy, danceable songs that were socially aware and positive without being cloying.

      But I disagree with you about Psychedelic Soul—the Temptations have nothing to be ashamed of there, thanks to the genius of Norman Whitfield. A song like “Psychedelic Shack” might have silly lyrics but it still sounds great. And songs like “Ball of Confusion” are stone cold classics. There’s a two-CD compilation of that stuff which is actually called “Psychedelic Soul” and is definitely worth purchasing.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. I was thinking more about the Temp’s outfits. Poor bastards. 🙂

        • revelator60
          Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          You have a point there…
          Though pretty everyone dressed badly in the 70s. Elvis’s jumpsuits weren’t much prettier.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

            Point taken. The threads in those Ford and Carter years were some fugly. 🙂

    • darrelle
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I agree. I’ve always liked Sly. Sly and George Clinton.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        ‘Shoot ’em with the Bop Gun’

        • darrelle
          Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          Where’d you get that funk from?

  17. John Dentinger
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Jerry is, as always, correct. And now, two more indisputable facts:
    1. Every song written since the year 2000, relies heavily upon the word, “woah.”
    2. The best album of 2019 is the Teal album, and not a single song in it contains the word, “woah.”

  18. David W.
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    There’s still good music out there but it’s not correlated with sales anymore. The music industry has changed so much thanks to the internet and streaming that the old Top 40 model of music no longer applies. Myself, I just listen to online radio stations that appeal to me (mostly public radio) and I’ve found there’s still good music to be had.

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. I too have found some amazingly good music on the internet that most on this list probably have never heard, and likewise, others here have favorites that I have never heard of. Fortunately we live close to a great venue for excellent musicians – the eTown music hall.

  19. revelator60
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    “…oldies stations twenty years from now will still be playing the Beatles and not Maroon 5 or Ariana Grande”

    Sadly there are many “oldies” stations nowadays that don’t even play 60s music! Their idea of oldies is stuff from the 70s to 90s. And good luck trying to find pop music from the 50s and earlier on modern non-satellite radio. This sort of disgusting cultural erasure should be a crime.

  20. Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I am unashamedly a sixties and seventies fan.
    The modern stuff is uninspiring.

    • Posted February 9, 2019 at 5:26 am | Permalink

      Put me in that category as well.

      I was pretty sure music had died when the disco era hit. I am also pretty convinced it has yet to be resurrected.

      I have close to 300 songs on my iphone, and bluetooth in the car, I don’t even listen to classic rock radio anymore unless I want to hear the weather. I am my own radio station now.

      Hey! You kids…get off my lawn!

      • Posted February 9, 2019 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        Many feel like you, and most musicians can’t make minimum wage. But the reason is 3 CEO’s control the music industry, period. See my big post and support the change.

  21. David W.
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    To follow up a bit, it’s also true that thanks to the internet and in particular YouTube that a lot of classic rock from the 1960s and 70s is available. That didn’t used to be the case back when albums went out of print and radio stations didn’t want to play records that weren’t current. So the old music isn’t at such a disadvantage as it used to be, and to be sure much of it is great to hear again or hear for the first time.

    I think this is a better explanation for the state of popular music today than thinking that there just aren’t any good musicians anymore.

  22. David W.
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    And because I’m just feeling chatty today, here’s the definitive take on good old music from a true master of the guitar. Enjoy!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1000_Years_of_Popular_Music

    • een
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Why am I not surprised to find more RT fans on WEIT? I’m enjoying the guitar work on his latest release, 13 Rivers.

      • garman
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        I was JUST discussing Richard Thompson today at work. Two points: 1. I have now concluded that RT is my favorite guitarist. 2. Keep all sharp objects far away when listening to End of the Rainbow. There is no song more bitter. I will write a song The Beauty When Richard Thompson’s Bitter.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      Ordered. Looks damn interesting!

  23. Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Before Dave Letterman retired he would feature current bands and singers at the close of his show. A lot of them were really good. I fon’t know if they ever reached the tops of the lusts but good music was being produced and performed.
    Sometimes I will turn on my car radio yo try to find some good music but rarely find anything I like. And never two in a row.

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Lusts. – lists/charts

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Letterman was great at promoting groups he liked. And he had good taste. I remember “The Screaming Trees” play on one of his shows… A somewhat popular Seattle grunge band.

  24. Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I’d say the caveat here is that today’s *popular* songs “suck.” That doesn’t mean that today’s music sucks in general. But the overwhelming majority of what I would consider interesting music being made nowadays is not on mainstream radio. That was much less the case even in the 90s.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      Yes, we can’t read into Jerry’s rant that all contemporary music sucks. He states contemporary pop music sucks. I agree with this premise.

      • Posted February 8, 2019 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        I guess the other thing is that the popular music landscape today is so enormous and so fragmented that the comparison is a little apples to oranges, at least IMO. For instance, most of the music on the vintage chart would now be rock or R&B.

        But I would say some of the old music here absolutely does suck. Bob Dylan and the Doors, specifically.

  25. BJ
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Though I agree with the sentiment that today’s music is worse, I’m loathe to trsmust mainstream critics on the issue. Regardless, I think it comes down to one thing: corporitization/homogenization.

    We see the same issue in other mediums that have come to be driven more and more by large corporations pursuing profit over artistic value. In movies, the big studios release more and more movies that attempt to piggyback off of trends, from superhero movies to shared universes and so on. In videogames, we see the biggest publishers do the same: a few years ago, every game had to be open-world. Then the online multi-player game became the newest trend, so all the big games needed to have that (and Bethesda has tried and failed to capitalize on that with Fallout 76 , for example). Now, the big trend is online battle royale. Like movies and music, the biggest games publishers have have pursued the most profitable trends, leafing to homogenization and no regard for artistic value.

    In the end, it’s all the result of a drive to make more money.

  26. Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been teaching guitar for 50+ years and hardly any student wants to learn to play tunes from the last 20 years, it’s mostly the 60s to the 90s. There are modern musicians doing interesting things, but they’re not ‘commercial’ and don’t get air time (=the men don’t look like pimps and the women don’t look like ‘bitches’).

    And when I do analyse a modern song for students it’s the same 3-4 chords used unimaginatively, over and over (and no crimson or clover).

    Conclusion – the modern music scene is more about hype/theatrics than musical talent or originality.

    rz

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Plus TATOOS!!!

      Sorry, couldn’t help a Maroon 5 super-bowl dis.

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Here’s my problem which is mine, and me I’m a composer of pop music. I suspect that there’s no way to sort out this problem of good and bad pop music. Freddie Mercury is great. No, he’s not. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is great: sorry, his voice is like a cheese-grater & the lyric is pompous nonsense.

      Dance music is great. Yet “any savage can dance” as, I think, D’Arcy said in “Pride and Prejudice”: or, as Tom Paulin, the Norn Irish poet and relentlessly high-brow critic, who thought all art was a footnote to Shakespeare, said on a ballet performance that he was forced to review, “They’re just leppin’ aboyt…” OTOH, dance music is usually crap. Except Nile Rodgers. And except when it’s good.

      And this is me. I think that a respect-worthy musician has to create a consistently high level, innovative and variously-influenced work over some period of time to be considered admirable. Beatles, Stones, Hayes etc. obviously manage that: so, unfortunately for me, do Queen. Hence the difficulty – and subjectivity – with which one defines what is great (Beatles), with what is naff (Queen).

      When one observes the simultaneously impressive and iconoclastically deadening Islamicized interior of the Hagia Sophia, one can simply appreciate the trade craft, effort, skill and artistry of a thing without admiring, or loving, it.

      • TJR
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        Are you still going with Yeah Yeah Noh? Heard them on Radio 6 recently, good stuff.

        To everyone out there – try to find BBC Radio 6 Music. Probably the best single place to find new, interesting, non-mainstream stuff.

  27. Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Neil Young once said that if you always give people what they want, they get bored with it.

    What I hear of current music is that it is overwhelmingly written from a kind of supine ‘struggle against the world’ position “I’ll make it somehow I just know it”. Jim Morrison didn’t have that attitude.

    And no one takes any risks. And the lyrics are literal and one dimensional.

    The only positive is that they’ve stopped pretending to have screaming orgasms on stage ala Robert Plant, and don’t bother with 10 minute drumming solos. Perversely, too, I imagine a ‘worst songs of the 2010s would be not be as inspiringly gut wrenching as a ‘worst songs of the 70s’ list would be.

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      Neil certainly tested that theory with Trans.

      • Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Yep– it took me 20 years to figure that one out. He actually chickened out of doing a whole record of vocoder music because he’d just signed on to Geffen Records and didn’t want to piss them off. Or at least at that particular point didn’t want to piss them off. Transformer Man (written about his son, born with cerebral palsy and dependent on a computer to speak) is a classic, as is Sample and Hold — a very prescient take on sex robots, being ordered by a fussy consumer who wants to avoid the problems with human lovers.

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      And speaking of Young, who are the contemporary equivalents of Young, Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, the Doors, and so on? Ryan Tedder?

      • Mark R.
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        Steven Wilson is the only one that comes to mind for me. There are more to be sure.

  28. Liz
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    “‘Crimson & Clover’ – Tommy James and the Shondells at The Bitter End .. NYC”
    https://bit.ly/2DjsnTs

    2:26 – 3:29. This live version is one of my favorite songs.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      That is a fine version of ‘C&C.’ Thanks for posting it, Liz. I was a bit miffed when PCCE called a song a ‘snoozer,’ since I’ve always found it, well, tingling. . . . Still true here in my sunset acres days, when tingling is about as far as it goes!

  29. JoanL
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I, too, agree with Jerry on this. But here’s something I’m currently enjoying:
    Aubrey Logan at Paste Studios
    (Here’s hoping the link doesn’t embed.)

  30. nwalsh
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Guess I’m an outlier, but: Sinatra, Dino,Tony Bennett,Glen Campbell, Camelot,Music Man, Oklahoma…OH Well.

  31. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    An important question that I keep asking myself about music :

    What is being expressed?

    This cannot be hidden, cannot be faked. No performer can hide it.

    “Today’s music” – say the 2010’s – is certainly expressing something very different from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, … ok 80’s, I’ll let you in … 90’s…

    What, though, is not clear to me.

  32. darrelle
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Most younger people listen to music on ear-buds and tiny little blue-tooth speakers. Sound quality sucks. The music doesn’t have to be interesting, any complexity would be lost anyway.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I still have a fondness for those big bad-boy speakers from Bose and Pioneer, the kind you can feel thrumming in your gut and chest, with the bass that rattles windows in their casings.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        Me too. 🙂 A 4′ tall pair of B&W DM640 are still the center piece of our den.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Due to the dynamic range compression it’s particularly difficult to listen to contemporary pop music for sustained periods – it’s tiring on the ears & I suspect it’s especially damaging with earbuds. TV & cinema ads use a hell of a lot of this compression in an attempt to drag eyes to the screen & we all can imagine how horrible that would be if ads played for a 45-min album length.

      Music producers want their music to be noticed, but the compression wars are probably hurting everyone’s music sales – listening has become bloody exhausting like listening to neighbours falling out.

      I suspect that partly explains the success of Ed Sheeran, Adele & Amy W: the producers are obliged to have quiet bits & loud bits & plenty of musical space for that type of singer/songwriter music to work. Same with most jazz & same with most classical.

      But pop, dance & quite a few guitar bands are mixed dreadfully poorly today. Some of the better bands produce themselves or have tight control such as the magnificent Radiohead** – as much space & range as one could possibly want.

      ** generally they’d be too maudlin for our host though

      • darrelle
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 6:57 am | Permalink

        I think I agree with all your points. Something I see that gives me hope is the variety of musical talent and tastes that I see on some of the popular talent shows that some have disparaged in the comments here. There is a lot of substantial talent out there that never gets noticed. And there are many genres other than the current pop treacle that is very well received by the audiences. Blues, jazz, opera, classic rock, classical and less definable stuff. It seems to me that plenty of people, artists and listeners, still appreciate good music.

        I can’t really say about other kids, but my kids don’t listen to current pop. My daughter sneers at it and my son is indifferent to it. I might have influenced them a bit on that though. For myself, there is still the occasional new pop song that I think is quite good, but few and far between. One example, Love On The Brain by Rihanna. I really like this song. When I first heard it I thought it was a much older song and was surprised I’d never come across it before. Turned out to be new, though hearkening back to older eras.

  33. nwalsh
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    One thing all the examples of music above have in common is the VU meter pictured. I believe it is still used today. It measures average peak power. Some of the modern music listed would probably pin the thing.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Culture changes, and opinions with it. Music industry is larger – and we call it “industry” – so it is successful enough.

    I don’t listen to music (and rarely to the text) except if it can give me a dancing experience. Recently I have been fairly happy with Pharell William’s “Happy”.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      That tune sounds like Seal, right? – I like it. I thought it was a 90’s tune – I think that was on purpose.

  35. P. Puk
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    We should also ask the “why” question. Why is pop music so bad?

    Simple answer: music today or s created and marketed solely for the people who will buy it. That is to say, kids between 9 and 18.

    The underdeveloped tastes and short attention spans of these consumers would necessarily demand the kind of rote garbage that they passed off as “music” nowadays. Probably 95% of it is just singing with some beat in the background.

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Sixties rock was about rebellion. With Mick ‘n’ Keef still touring with the Stones in their 70s the youth and anarchic energy of music have become mainstream. So much for the Who and “hope I die before I get old” (and today an online petition would soon have those lyrics taken down). Sex and drugs and rock and roll? Today’s youth will settle for a caramel latte and a night in watching NetFlix. But they’re only rebelling against the culture of the generation that went before them. Plus ca change!

    • darrelle
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      By the time I got to your comment my frame of mind was such that at first glance my mind registered P. Funk. For a moment there I thought the Mothership had returned! But alas, no.

  36. Posted February 7, 2019 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I don’t begrudge the current generation its music, but I really don’t need to hear three songs in a row with the same hihat sample. To be honest, three measures of it and I’ve had enough. By the way, I’m a recording engineer and sometimes I have to participate to some degree in the problem behaviors, but at least I have an opportunity to give my opinion during the production rather than after the release.

  37. tomh
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Ah, this post really takes me back. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and I can still hear my long-gone parents bemoaning the loss of ‘real’ music, the big bands, Sinatra, et al. The more things change… ah, you know the rest.

  38. Frank Bath
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    I love the way the topic sets everyone alight. Our music, always there, we carry it around in our heads.

  39. drew
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Dear PCC,

    I agree most heartily with the sentiment expressed in this posting. I have found 2 current bands that I really enjoy and think that you would like.

    The first is Greta Van Fleet. The singer has a sound very reminiscent of Robert Plant.

    The second is Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. They have a sound very much like the old style R&B of the 60s. The lead man is pretty good, there’s one song where he makes his voice sound similar to Sam Cooke (It’s called “Howling at Nothing”).

    This is not to suggest that today’s music doesn’t suck, but that there are a few diamonds in the rough.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      I enjoy both bands you mention, and agree with the reality that there will always be good groups out there. Finding these diamonds in the rough is enjoyable. The 60’s and 70’s was a beginning. Now music has expanded exponentially. Even Jerry could find music today he likes. It would be weird if he couldn’t.

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Greta Van Fleet was just on SNL, and they were remarkable. It was a sound from waay back when.

      • Mark R.
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        There often compared to Led Zep.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 8, 2019 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          They are very Led Zep especially the vocalist, but I’m confident they’ve got the musicianship to gradually move away from that influence – I recall Rush were compared with LZ in their early days too.

  40. Randy Bessinger
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Interesting post which goes along well with being half way through Robbie Robertsons autobiography.

  41. Gabrielle
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve written this before, but even though I turn 60 this month, I enjoy a lot of pop music that’s played on the radio: Selena Gomez, Adele, Cardi B, Imagine Dragons, 21 Pilots, and a few others. I enjoy it more than the 70s idiotic/pretentious/sugary/ upbeat pop that I grew up with, that I can’t stand to listen to for more than a few minutes.

    Music today is not just listened to, it’s watched as well. A good amount of effort has to go into producing music videos that will mesh with the songs.

    I don’t think things are so dire. I like classical music too, and unlike others above, I enjoy listening to Philip Glass (my neighbor refers to his music as ‘that cacophony of sounds!)

    To each his own.

    • Marta
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Agreed, except for Phillip Glass, whose music is the functional equivalent of water dripping on your head for an hour.

      • Vaal
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Ha!

        Meanwhile, I’m ecstatic to have just received a pressing of a Glass score that I’d always admired for an early 90’s movie. And his score for movies like Powaqqatsi are to my ears brilliant.

        That’s subjectivity for ya….

  42. Christian
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I agree that modern pop music is mostly horrible. But “pop” hasn’t represented the best in non-classical, non-jazz music since at least the 80’s.

    Also, 60’s bands could rip off old blues acts etc. without consequence or people even realizing it.

    The 60’s generation then takes many of the most catchy cords, cord changes, melodies etc. and copyrights them for the next 95 years.

    Then they sit back and criticize later generations for not being able to come up with songs that are as catchy or good as them.

    That’s rich!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      Christian:

      “The 60’s generation then takes many of the most catchy cords, cord changes, melodies etc. and copyrights them for the next 95 years”

      I don’t recognise your description of the world – a grain of truth only.

      Copyrighting chords & chord changes & melodies… not a biggie in the blues where the borrowing was a continuous evolution that went back hundreds of years – most of the pre-60s blues music in the 12-bars format ‘call & answer’ tradition is simply a formula that can’t be no more copyrighted than the bossa nova can!

      You’d have a very tough time making “many of the most catchy chords” your exclusive own!

      If you’re referring to ‘licks’ these are constantly borrowed & rarely cause trouble – I recall the Doors keyboardist would throw in bits of Andy Williams melodies into his music [& other little ear worms] & there’s never been a spot of bother. Half of Deep Purple I’ve heard elsewhere before.

      If you’re referring to music & lyrics – an interesting area with say Bob Dylan’s borrowings of borrowing of trad songs such as “Scarborough Fair” to make “Girl From The North Country” which led onto the derivative a year later “Boots Of Spanish Leather”

      A lot of poverty stricken bluesmen had careers revived by the Stones, Animals, Yardbirds or Zep ripping their tunes [which they’d ripped themselves!] – Britain had a flood of these chaps coming to the UK in the 60s & 70s off the back of their catalogue revival.

      Of course there have been interesting cases such as Spirit/Zep & also George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” who thought he was re-jigging an out-of-copyright “Oh Happy Day” Christian hymn, but he does seem to have caught a cold there with unconsciously following “He’s so fine” from ’63. An easy thing to do I think.

      Christian:

      “Then they [from the 60s] sit back and criticize later generations for not being able to come up with songs that are as catchy or good as”

      I’m not familiar with any trend for 60s musos to do as you describe. Those music acts now shading into their seventy years of age who are still touring have no difficulty digging up highly proficient, entertaining support acts to tour with them. And the ones who have retired [or haven’t] are highly delighted to pick up royalties from covers of their greatest hits. Robert Plant is an example of a late 60s muso who is constantly refreshing with new talent of all ages from all over the world. There’s plenty of musicians [esp session musicians] from those days cross-pollinating ideas with the young guns of today.

      There’s a vast unexplored musical space – no chance of running out of ideas ever! The lack of fresh pop ideas today is the corporate need to go with the tried & tested.

    • Posted February 8, 2019 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your splenetic comments, which I have taken under advisement and rejected.

      To say that the Beatles stole all their music from old blues acts and then copyrighted them is a gross distortion of the truth.

      • Gabrielle
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

        I can’t tell if the commenter Christian was referring to the Beatles, but Led Zeppelin (my favorite band) had a known habit of copywriting songs that they ripped off from other artists, especially in their earlier albums. This article from Rolling Stone chronicles the most well known problematic songs. Listen to ‘Dazed and Confused’ from the original artist Jake Holmes, and you’ll understand the issue at hand.

        On later re-mastered Zeppelin albums, the correct attributions have been made, mostly due to out-of-court settlements between Jimmy Page (on behalf of the band) and the original artists. One exception has been the court case over ‘Stairway to Heaven’, which Zeppelin won.

        I have the impression that record companies back in the 1960s and 70s did not check out the authorship/copyright of songs; I suspect they do so more carefully nowadays.

        • Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          Led Zep – best cover band evah!

          Compare to the Rolling Stones, who refused to appear on Shindig! unless Howlin’ Wolf joined them.

  43. Posted February 7, 2019 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I do like Alt Rock, or whatever that is.

    • Posted February 7, 2019 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      Another day up in the canyon

  44. Roger
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I like Beach Bunny although the repetitive chords will make everyone angry so I recommend aspirins first.

  45. Posted February 7, 2019 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Structure: The Bridge

    Sometimes the short, shockingly short bridge can really jolt you:

    the bridge from “I Only Have Eyes For You” Songwriters: Al Dubin / Harry Warren, 1934

    “I don’t know if we’re in a garden,
    Or on a crowded avenue”

  46. Deodand
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    For me it’s been much the same, I largely stopped listening to ‘pop music’ around the turn of the century, there has not been much written after 2000 that I want to listen to. It’s interesting to see that that seems to be the watershed for a lot of other people as well. I wonder just what happened around then.

    • Doug
      Posted February 7, 2019 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

      For me, it was 1990. I turned 30.

  47. Cate Plys
    Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    This must be Jerry’s funniest post ever. I just missed being a Boomer but I can’t possibly argue with those Billboard charts. I do think there’s lots of great music still, but that you won’t find it on the pop charts for the most part.

    For a fun oldies station in Chicago, listen to MeTV radio—it’s actually a TV station you can still hear on the radio, at 87.7 if I remember correctly. What I love is that they play great stuff from before my time that I never heard before, not just the hits. For a good mix (though not perfect, you can’t expect perfection) of the best rock of all eras, in Chicago, WXRT is still going strong at 93.1.

  48. Posted February 8, 2019 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    I felt compelled to defend my generation’s music, then I remembered that I listen to The Sound of Silence more than any other non-theme-song.

    -Ryan

  49. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 8, 2019 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Wanted to say : there are good Bluetooth speakers- just as there are crummy enormo-speakers.

    The banality of the Billboard top hits might be correlated with tiny tinny speakers but it does not explain the popularity of banality.

  50. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 8, 2019 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Talent is talent. Creativity will not die, and that is one of the (few) great things about our species.
    So you can go onto one of many free streaming services and choose a variety of genres. See what’s playing. I listen to Google Play Music for free. There you can click on Browse, and then Genres, and have a look at what is out there. Lots of old stuff also streams thru that outlet, plus newer titles.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 6:11 am | Permalink

      I can say that subscription services (I won’t name names – actually I only used one) are, as they usually advertise, excellent at finding new stuff you’ll like. Discover.

      In my case, it took some weeding out, but I eventually discovered my own enormous ignorance of Mozart, Bach, Early Music, Chopin… sure I heard them before, for years, but it’s so fast to find the entire catalog in one place instead of poking slowly through the titles, word of mouth, etc. the thing is, there’s too many gems to miss by being obsessed by Billboard top hits or Grammy awards.

      So you can “discover” music, but it might just be what was missing all along, under your nose.

  51. Posted February 8, 2019 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    The problem is not that nobody is writing and performing good music anymore, it’s that the good music is less likely to receive national and international airplay.

    The so called “Top 40” which was a very important part of my life when I was a teenager has almost no relevance now.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      A thought occurred to me from this comment:

      Radio

      It is no longer the last step for dissemination. Internet is nothing like radio.

      I don’t know what that means, but pre- Internet, Casey Kasem’s Countdown (etc.) had such attention- it was every week. Now, I don’t know how this music gets out – it’s not even MTV – I mean, it shows up in commercials at the gas pump of all places! This must be an important factor for understanding this Billboard top hits list.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        I just don’t understand how MTV could go so wrong. The early years were excellent. It was all music. These days it is the worst channel I know of and has little to no music.

  52. Posted February 8, 2019 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Well said. You have just become part of the music revolution from Dallas. You are not alone. We support you. Here is more
    Music revolution
    Here is a summary of the Music Revolution; 3 old men control 80% of music. (No women.) That’s bad for everyone. The music revolution against it, that’s great. This music revolution is opening the doors to thousands of musicians, and lots of new music in every style.

    3 CEOs (Warner, Universal, Sony – all men no women in one of the worst glass ceilings anywhere) control 80% of the music industry, only support the same aging teen pop stars – where 1% of musicians make 70% of the money.

    The major 3 make the art, distribute it, promote it on the media outlets they own, and then give themselves great reviews. No musician has a chance, no matter how good you are!!!

    For best music quality, there should be thousands of competing companies, not three; and about half should be run by women. The quality and variety of mainstream music is at an all time low and hasn’t changed much in 10 years. Radio is just ads and nobody is listening, concert tickets are a rip off and hassle, vinyl prices are ridiculous, the music media is just press releases of what they want to promote, awards shows seem fake, best selling music charts can’t be trusted, online streaming sales never get to the musician, music never changes – always the same few promoted over and over- and there is never news of the alternative to all this. Music sales have barely caught up to those of 1999! Most money goes to a few over promoted aging pop stars. (70% goes to 1% of musicians.)

    Where is the music media? What story could be bigger? Corporate media, you can’t pretend this is not happening anymore.

    Who do you support, 3 businessmen, or all musicians?
    Show some courage and demand better for yourself and all musicians. This is not a time to hide your head in the sand!

    Help by these very small things.
    1. Pass the word that 3 CEO’s control music – all men with no women allowed in key positions – and have done great harm to music, radio, concerts, music media, and music online, as well as ruining the careers of thousands of musicians. Just talking about it helps all musicians everywhere.
    2. Support the Dallas musicians or anyone else that is actively against all this.
    3. Lift a finger, literally, and LIKE your favorite songs and videos. Show you care, lift a finger.
    4. Talk to your favorite music news site and ask why they won’t talk about the music revolution.
    5. Support Pennies for Play, a way for any musician to stream music for pennies on his website without record companies or any corporations.

    There is a music revolution going on and you can decide which side you want – the side with 3 CEOs that control 80% of the music business and the music media, or all the rest of us.

    The music business is auto tuned!


    The Texas Video Showdown is one indie musician representing all musicians, versus the Pop Stars,

    #progressivemusiciansforfaircoverage

  53. Posted February 8, 2019 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    3 CEOS control 80% of the music business, the Big 3, there should be thousands
    1% of musicians make 70% of all money in music. Most musicians make less than 15k or minimum wage.
    We need diversity with thousands of companies , lots of women in leadership positions, and a media that will talk about this music revolution, see my other post.

  54. Posted February 8, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    One of the things I have noticed, having 2 teen-aged children that listen to a lot of ‘modern’ music (thankfully, they also enjoy ‘my’ music – primarily progressive rock from the 1960s and 70s), is the decrease in the length (word-wise) of actual verses and the increase in length of – and increased repetition of – choruses. For example:

    I can feel your halo (halo) halo
    I can see your halo (halo) halo
    I can feel your halo (halo) halo
    I can see your halo (halo) halo
    I can feel your halo (halo) halo
    I can see your halo (halo) halo
    I can feel your halo (halo) halo
    I can see your halo (halo) halo

    Obviously, repetition is part of music, but the extent of this repetition is obvious and increasing.

    And I won’t even mention the death of the virtuoso – how many of today’s ‘pop stars’ can even read, much less play, music?

    • Matt
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Ability to read music has little to do with musical ability. McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Streisand, Pavarotti and many others don’t read music.

      Watch some Tommy Emmanuel videos then ask yourself if his inability to read is a problem!

    • Vaal
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Few songs make my “change the station” finger lash out more quickly than Beyonce’s execrable “Halo” song. I find the combination of maudlin, prosaic lyrics delivered with overwrought singing and emotion to be skin-crawling.

  55. Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    … songs have steadily become more repetitive over the years, and that song lyrics from today compress 22% better on average than less repetitive song lyrics from the 1960s.

    Non-knee-taking Alt-right band, Maroon 5’s highly repetitive Sugar could be compressed down c. 98% without significant degradation.

  56. Roger Lambert
    Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    New music? Heck, I am still finding music that I was completely unaware of during the 60’s and 70’s, that I now love.

    Between YouTube and wikipedia, one can happily and fruitfully play music detective and follow artists as they move on to different later bands. You can read the wiki on the members of your favorite bands top see what bands they were in before they hit it big and find many of these recordings on YouTube. It’s the creative Art of Musical Stumbling.

    Here is an example – Did you know that Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce were in a band together before Cream? With John McLaughlin on guitar and Dick Heckstall-Smith on Sax? Led by the short-lived genius Graham Bond on Hammond organ:

    I stumbled onto Fairport Convention this way, and have been a huge Richard Thompson fan for decades. I then stumbled upon the fantastic American band Kaleidoscope (there is a British band with the same name, but avoid them, they are not very good)when Richard Thompson released his straight-Appalachian folk version of the song The Cuckoo.

    Thompson’s version is one of his songs that I like the least in his gigantic repertoire. The 1969 version by Kaleidoscope, though, blew me away. They may be one of the first “world” music groups, mixing folk, rock, blues, jazz and some Middle Eastern influences.

    Take a listen to Thompson’s traditional version, and then be amazed by the snowballing exuberance of the 1969 Kaleidoscope blues version 🙂

  57. Posted February 8, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I have no opinion on the topic, but the use of data compression in aesthetics has to be pretty close to unique!

  58. Posted February 8, 2019 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t endure today’s Top 10. The songs sound like created by a computer program that in turn was created by a lousy (or drunk) programmer.

    Of the 1969 Top Ten, my favorite is “Build Me Up Buttercup”. Especially the beginning is great.

    Commenter Musea above mentioned demographics. It seems to me that the 1969 set has more than its fair share of black men. Any explanation or this is random?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      mayamarkov:

      “the 1969 set has more than its fair share of black men. Any explanation or this is random?”

      The fact that it’s black MEN is just to do with which week is sampled. The extraordinary domination of black music artistes in the 60s & 70s is down to God & gospel music & the Motown, Atlantic & Stax labels.

      In the black American communities of that approximate era singing was what you did – it was integrated into all communal events. It was free entertainment & it didn’t even need instruments – harmony & clapping handled that. ALL black music [with the exception of some experimental jazz] is beat based & eminently danceable – you can’t help but tap an appendage at a bare minimum.

      So what have we got? We’ve got R&B + gospel + doo-wop + jazz = Sweet soul music & everybody loved it! Soul is the atom bomb of music. Still is.

  59. Vaal
    Posted February 8, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Even as a music fanatic with an ear somewhat to the ground for lots of new music, the ever grumpier old guy in me feels all the more sympathetic to the “pop music these days is crap.” There was a point when my kids were younger where I could have “their” station of popular music on, and I could enjoy the occasional song along with them.

    This seems to have almost completely disappeared. When a popular station is now playing it all sounds like processed, cookie-cutter pap of the lowest quality level and it’s an utter relief to change the station.

    Naturally it is comforting to encounter the idea that there is some objective validation for my experience.

    But the problem I always have when this subject comes up is that, so long as one is talking about generalities in making the case “there’s less variety, less dynamics” etc I can nod along agreeing.

    It’s only when *specific examples* are given that suddenly the wheels come off for me.
    So for instance when Jerry writes:

    “My response to that accusation is threefold: that there are no groups today that even begin to rival the great groups of the Sixties, including the Beatles, the Doors, Santana, and so on;”

    My mind experienced the sensation of a loud tire screech at the citation of Santana, who to my ears is one of the most overrated, tiresome musicians I know of.

    It reminds me of going to audio shows, inevitably packed with white middle aged or older audiophiles, and among the most common music spun by these fellows is “The Blues” by artists like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Muddy Waters. Rows of heads will nod in unison to this music and “They don’t make music like this anymore!”

    And yet to me, if the Devil wants to truly torment me in hell, he will play this music. It is to my ears utterly monotonous, unimaginative, and simultaneously overwrought in performance.

    There just seems to be an unavoidable intrusion of subjectivity in to all these attempts to say “music was better in my day” as soon as specifics are cited.

    And in each era we find pronouncements claiming to have some objective foundation about quality “X’s music will NEVER last.” Which has been said by someone, somewhere, about almost every musical piece that has ever lasted.

  60. Posted February 8, 2019 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Hey all you old people, stop reminiscing and join the music revolution – to changs all this. Join thousands that feel the same way but are doing something about it.
    There are only 3 men , CEos, The Big 3, that stand in the way – they control 80% of the entire music business! Call them out and the entire music industry will fall like a house of cards – and instead of 3 companies, you’ll have thousands competing on quality, and you’ll have thousands trying to make better music, more fair music media, better radio etc. etc. etc. If you can’t stand up to 3 old businessmen then you don’t deserve better music.
    See my big post up here earlier.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 8, 2019 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Less of the “old people” please.

      • Posted February 8, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        I’m 69 so I can.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 8, 2019 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

          The dyed hair had me fooled Tom. Also you are right about Dusty Springfield “The Look of Love” so there’s a good chance you know your onions. 🙂

          • Posted February 9, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

            Michael, you are now part of the positive change of the music revolution.

  61. James
    Posted February 8, 2019 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Much of this can, I think, be explained by diversification. The concept of “pop music” has narrowed over the years. Things that would have been listed in “pop” in the 1960s or ’70s would now be listed in genres that didn’t exist back then–alternative rock, contemporary rock, coffeehouse, techno, house, dance. A lot of it migrated into Country, since Country had nothing left to offer (when Johnny Cash had to go to a metal label for his fair-well album, it was time to admit Country was dead).

    Defining genres of music is akin to defining groups of primoridal bacteria; our taxonomic frameworks simply aren’t built for it. However, I did find this interesting website:

    https://musicmap.info/

    You can see pop music splintering off. “Pop” is a catch-all term, the “Problematica” of music, and as genres become more coherent they stop falling under the “Pop” label.

    I also think that part of the issue is that pop music is played on the radio, which is increasingly NOT how people get their music. Some of my favorite musicians and bands will likely never see air time; I discovered them through Pandora, YouTube, and other sources. Radio is responding by taking fewer risks–sticking to what makes the most money. And that’s bland, watered down stuff, too inoffensive to have a message because radio can’t afford to offend any potential listener.

    • Posted February 9, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      That sounds reasonable, until you find that 3 CEOS control the entire music industry and have ruined it. We really have a single reason. See my big post above.

  62. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 9, 2019 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Here’s another music expert who offers an explanation:

    https://REMOVE_THIS_PARTyoutu.be/KZazEM8cgt0

    (spoiler alert : it’s Frank Zappa)

    Another thought: usually, there is an apparent ownership of pop music, owners being the younger crowd. This can happen by strongly differentiating from the older crowd, and explicitly evoking a disgust. In other words – is this the same phenomenon all over again? Rebellion against the authorities, the old folk?

  63. Martim
    Posted February 9, 2019 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think this is a problem of the music/musicians, but just a reflection of the cultural trend of the last one or two decades – the ‘massification’&’over/easy consumption’ of everything (current tourism patterns are a one of the most visible examples of this).

    As an example, in the 60s you had the inauguration of Kennedy with Robert Frost reading a poem as the first ‘inaugural poet’! In 2017’s inauguration, you had…

    I’m sure there are as much, or more [because there are more in numbers], good musicians today as back then – but yes, more effort to find good music may be required now.

    A good window on the diversity and quality of what can be included in ‘popular music’ is given by the NPR Tiny Desk Concerts – https://www.npr.org/series/tiny-desk-concerts/.
    Just in the current page you have quite a nice range encompassing Kurt Vile, Blood Orange, and the Dirty Projectors.

    And, staying in the US, you do have consistently good bands doing their (excellent) thing but not really being in the charts (and not really caring about it): obvious examples are WILCO, mentioned in this thread, and the superlative YO LA TENGO, that after more than 30 years of consistently producing good music are still happy to play to rooms of 300 people and mix with the audience in the end.

    Saying this, it is true that WILCO’s Jeff Tweedy has been producing and writing the last albums of Mavis Staples & that YO LA TENGO’s Ira Kaplan just said in a recent interview that he is much more of a ‘digger’ (scouting for old records) rather than someone who is looking around for the latest act…

    • Posted February 11, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Martin, no it’s really just 3 old men, The Big 3, CEOS that have ruined it all. See my big post on this thread and join the music revolution.
      BTW, NPR blocks any mention of this change, or its musicians. They support the 3 men and block all musicians!

  64. Posted February 11, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    So deep of this industry for pop today, I’m a musician (not active), but basically you have to go to independents/ DIY’s labels to really get decent music, the corporatization today is worse than ever

  65. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 15, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I just came across this fun video which discusses, in particular, the hi-hat (or it’s sonic equivalent) in a recent Ariana Grande song. This is interesting and fun for a few reasons:

    1. Tally of the writers if a pop song today can be as high as 10
    2. Cicadas – you’ll have to watch to understand this
    3. gives an idea of what producers are trying to do, to stand out from the crowd

    https://REMOVE_THIS_PARTyoutu.be/EkIT6CApgqQ

    • Posted February 16, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      That link doesn’t work. What is the title of the video? Thanks

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 16, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        CLICK THIS Video by Rick Beato, producer, Atlanta GA.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted February 16, 2019 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          AHHH that’s it!

          I get a kick out of it – watched it again!

          … “trap music” – learn something new every day.

        • Posted February 17, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          Lots of smart opinios here but in reality it comes down to 3 CEOs, the Big 3, controlling the entire music industry.

          These 3 want to safeguard their dinosaur acts, that’s why the same 10 people over and over.
          Now imagine instead of 3 majors propping up the same 10 acts , where 1% of musicians make 70% of ALL money in music; you had thousands competing on quality and change like the time of the first hit list.
          3 Men stand in the way of a complete and total change in the music industry. That’s why the music revolution out of Dallas. That should be the topic of this thread, or at least the next one = The big 3 versus all the musicians and people here.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted February 17, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

            “imagine […] thousands competing on quality and change ”

            Why not 10s of thousands? 100s of thousands?… 100s? And how do we know this isn’t already the scene?

            And what is the expected outcome of your proposed plan – thousands of Mozarts with all the money and all the Ariana Grandes out of work?

            • Posted February 17, 2019 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

              That’s easy. Look st the two song lists at the top of this thread. The first was made with thousands of record companies competing, the 2nd with three.
              Then too none of those 3 are women so that glass ceiling is blocking all women. That’s not good for anyone.

            • Posted February 17, 2019 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

              That’s easy. Look st the two song lists at the top of this thread. The first was made with thousands of record companies competing, the 2nd with three.
              Then too none of those 3 are women so that glass ceiling is blocking all women. That’s not good for anyone.

            • Posted February 17, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

              What is the outcome of such a change? Please read the long post that lists what this would do for musician.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 17, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

            You’ve said that before here – it’s like an echo & it’s so frequent it’s automatic pilot . You write that in nearly every post everywhere. It’s true mostly, but no need to repeat in the same damned thread!

            • Posted February 17, 2019 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

              Look I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing it for thousands of musicians blocked from a fair chance at a career. The bigger question is why does that bother you more than this industry wide music mess?

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 16, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        oh I know why it is not working.

        the part that says

        “REMOVE_THIS_PART” has to be removed.

        I do this because :

        1. huge video links are discouraged here
        2. my method is super-fast
        3. my method relies on zero computational literacy
        4. the link edit suggests to the user which part should be removed.

        I could learn how to put links in properly, but this works….

        by the way, if I could learn ONE thing for WordPress, it would be how to make a hyperlink. yes I looked on WordPress by using Google, and it is useless to me because it instructs the user which buttons to click. No click. Type. words. plain text. that’s what I’m looking for.

        thanks.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 16, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          Thyroid:

          “….how to make a hyperlink. […] [Using] plain text…”

          This is all you need to know to format text & to put a named link in the comments:
          html

    • Posted February 16, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      DAW = “Digital Audio Workstation” and also could broadly be expanded to subsume the entirety of electronic alteration of music.

      One key DAW is called “Pro Tools.”

      This video, about a famous and infectious drum riff, has a comment part way down …

      “Before we had Pro Tools, we only had pros.”

      Go to youtube.com and add this to view the video: /watch?v=lWnhz1ZcF74


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/yet-another-music-expert-and-critic-says-that-to… […]

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: