Thursday, August 24, 2006

Everybody Stop the Music

Whatever happened to popular music? I realize it never had the gravity of classical instrumental music, but it did hold quite an appeal, once upon a time.

Take the heavily synthesized, up-beat stuff most folks call "pop" music: in the '70s and '80s, it consisted of great tunes, interesting lyrics, and produced memorable if not earth-shattering songs. Now we have the likes of Stripley Spears, Bedunce Knowles, Jessica Simpleton, and Christina Stripmebarea--all well-paid pole dancers who made careers on alluring physical characteristics and less talent than I have residing in my pinky toe. Have you ever perused their lyrics? The introspection of a fruit fly has more intellectual weight. In most circles, if you writhe and cavort seminude, you're known as a stripper, or something less complimentary. But once you get a recording contract--voila! You're a superstar!

Remember rock and roll?: Great guitar riffs, real melodies (even the harder variant), thought-provoking words, and groups who took the form seriously, striving toward the production of something lasting. Rush and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers come to mind. Now we see bands that sink even lower in quality and morality than the lowest of the bad old days. Much of it is indistinguishable from white noise. Recently I was flipping tv channels, and stopped on one of the music stations for a few moments. The video was the latest offering from Cannibal Corpse. Catchy moniker, huh? Now imagine if Satan kicked together some demonic choir buddies and performed on a railroad track during a train wreck. That's how it sounded. Just a tip for would-be rock stars: if your band sounds like wails of the damned, makes cats and dogs yowl in pain, or peels paint off the walls, you may be creating a new torture device for Kim Jong-il, but you're not crafting music. Gone are the days of groups called Rainbow, Styx, Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc. Now we gawk in appreciation of quartets named Rancid, Puddle of Mud, Garbage, Sputum, Offal, Saliva, Mucus, Seeping Pustule--the bodily fluids and grotesque images go on and on.

I long for the days when country singers weren't merely clones of two or three of the most current icons. Take Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash; Kenny Rogers' earlier songs; Dollie Parton and Patsy Cline. Now that was a talented lineup. Each has a distinct voice and wrote songs that achieved a folk music status in the minds of many. Now we're burdened with three hundred guys who sound identical, who do not and cannot write their own songs; which in many ways is commendable, since most of these jokes set to music wouldn't try a ten-year-old for complexity. It's as if a group of industry executives sat down and said: "Let's write saccharine tripe--pure junkfood for the brain--and make sure we keep it under three-and-a-half minutes. Wouldn't wanna strain the attention spans of all those beer guzzlin' morons whom we euphemistically call fans." And so it goes. Forget something that stirs the soul or lives on in memory for twenty years. Nope. Just cobble a few one-syllable words together and let them wing to the radio waves. Sure, it'll make a bajillion dollars, but no one will remember the sell-out singer or the song in six months. And maybe that's a good thing, after all.

Don't even get me started on rap. . .

No comments: