I seem to be in a fix: usually, when someone of my age asks me, what kind of music do you like? I get really specific – sometimes too specific for my liking: I can’t just say a genre, because what kind of music I like depends on whom I’m listening to. And often whom I’m listening to is someone, either a solo act or band, that aren’t current or may be current, but aren’t mainstream – they’ve never been on the Top 20, American Idol (or variation thereof), or any other modern popular talent show.
Do you see how complicated this getting already?
Put simply, with the odd exception or two, I don’t listen to any modern, contemporary music. I just can’t get into it the same way as I do with older music.
A friend of mine and I were talking about this, our seeming inability to “get into” modern music, in a casual discussion over sushi. In this casual discussion, we came to the conclusion that, besides today’s better technology, as well as social media, the drastic difference between music today and the music that our parents, grandparents, etc., listened to is the music industry and how it’s changed, and how, in turn, most music produced and sold has changed.
We generally agreed upon that what separates the music of today and the music made three decades ago, and further back, is the soul behind the music. It is not sincere. As well, a number of the people who make and/or produce the music do not know how to play a musical instrument – most often the music has been made with a computer – or they lip-sync in their live concerts. While the technology that is available today and better, it does not necessarily constitute better music or quality: I would argue that some older music has better quality than what’s being put out today and sold as music, by and large. Prior to the digital age, I think that people who made and/or produced music in general were forced, in a way, to be more creative in recording with what the technology at the specific time and what the recording studio was equipped with. Now we have Auto-tune and music that is on synthesizer-overload in most or all aspects, right down to the vocals. The music isn’t organic.
In fact, I would say that there is less emphasis on the music and more attention put upon the singer, songwriter, or artist – whatever term you wish to use. When people talk about Lady Gaga, for example, most of the time is the conversation about her music, the latest costume she’s wearing, or the great show she did last night? Most headlines about Lady Gaga aren’t about her music at all: at least ninety-five to ninety-nine per cent of the time, conversations among fans and non-fans alike and headlines will be about what she’s wearing or something she said. Not her musical output.
In terms of more attention put upon the person outside of musical context, there is a stark contrast, to the extent of a polarity, between male and female performers in music in that while a man could be number one, he will look decidedly ordinary, casually dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, and be normal in contrast to a number one female performer who is undoubtedly outrageous, whether in her appearance, dress, or behaviour, or all of the above, which prompts the argument that that a woman has to be outrageous and scantily-clad to be noticed, so that ultimately more importance is placed on what she’s wearing than the music she is making and may be ultimately remembered by her clothes more so than her music, whereas a man in the same industry doesn’t have to or be forced to go to the same extremes to garner attention. It has been argued that more theatrical, dramatic male performers like David Bowie or Freddie Mercury are needed in the wake of over-the-top female performers in the music industry now, but what hasn’t been brought to light or argued is that perhaps, instead, there should be more female performers and male performers who are decent and, for female performers, to have a modest decency in dress and appearance. Female performers’ costumes have gone to the utmost extreme, leaving little left to the imagination, so that there is no modesty or decency and there is no morality left.
When we think about the people who have made music, past and present, what do we remember them by? Are they more memorable (or unmemorable) because of the music they made and gave to the world, because of the clothes they wore, or some outrageous thing they said or did?
If there is to be a true revolution in the music industry, it has to be a return to the importance of the music and less about the performer’s ego.