We’ve all heard it. The popular music of today. It’s very different from the popular music of the glorious 70’s, and of course anyone should expect that. Things change, and that certainly applies to music- it is ever evolving, but in recent years something seems wrong. The ever evolving nature of music comes about through changes in style of course, but the intelligence level of the majority (not all) of popular music today seems to be drastically dumbed down. Straying from its evolutionary nature, it seems to have become a devolution.
Using the music listened to in the 70’s as the main comparison, the amounts of integrity and intelligence in the industry today seems to not even matter to the typical listener of popular music. Bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin continually pushed the boundaries of what rock music could be, and they were also listened to by virtually all the youth in America Now we have acts such as Soulja Boy taking over the airwaves as teens rejoice, and the ever disappointing amount of alternative rock bands coming out who call themselves “Indie” and in essence, bastardize the word. Now, instead of innovation being the determining factor in how popular a certain act is, repetition is the most important part of what makes a band famous. The same songs with different names, over and over and over again.
Let us call the aforementioned hip-hop/rap sensation, Soulja Boy, as the first example to what popular music has become. In no way do we think hip-hop and rap music is a terrible stain on music history, because there are legendary acts with excellent work such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac, and Dr. Dre, among others. Now, the very aspect that drives the genre, lyrics, has become devastated by an ever decreasing amount of intellectual lyrical content in the music. In Soulja Boy’s hit single, entitled “Crank Dat”, the main repeating chorus of the song goes something like this.
“Now watch me you
(Crank dat, Soulja Boy)
Now watch me you
(Crank day, Soulja Boy)”
While some grammar can be fooled around with in song writing to make the song more accessible, the lyrics of “Crank Dat” come off as near illiterate. The old, well-versed rap artists of yore are forgotten, leaving an empty shell along with empty lyrics and empty melodies with too much bass. Now let’s take an example of a verse from an early 90’s Wu-Tang Clan song entitled “Can’t it Be All So Simple”.
“But for now, it just a big dream
Cause I find myself in the place where I’m last seen
My thoughts must be relaxed
Be able to maintain
Cause times is changed and life is strange
The glorious days is gone, and everybody’s doin’ bad”
The selected verse retains the street language found where the artist grew up, but also shows a distinct amount of insight. Insight- is that what someone gets when listening to “Crank Dat”?
Another problem with the music of Soulja Boy and the like is that popular music is no longer listened to all the way through the record. For the most part, the one hit song is purchased on a site such as iTunes while the rest are left to rot with extremely limited listens. The worst part- the amount of income the one hit song garners is enough to not only make up for the lackluster results for the album as a whole, but make our dear Soulja Boy a multi-millionaire. What happened to the days where albums were praised as a whole, not engrossed by one hit single?
Sadly, popular rock music seems to be heading in the same direction. Super-bands like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin are no longer found for the most part, at least in the mainstream media. As we stated before, these rock acts pushed boundaries, and were praised by the masses for their innovation introduced to the genre.
One of the most popular acts of today, Fall Out Boy, simply can’t compare to what the previously mentioned bands did for the industry. Fall Out Boy’s 2007 release “Infinity On High” had just one single track above four minutes, with the others averaging around three and a half minutes. Though good music isn’t based on mere song length, the consistently short and poppy bits produced by Fall Out Boy in recent years must seem to stick to a formula. A formula pointed towards the short attention spans of the majority of listeners today.
Where is popular music heading? No one can really say where, but it doesn’t seem like too bright of a future. Let us change this. The acts of today don’t control the industry, it’s the listeners. We all can think, so why should we dumb ourselves down for one of humanity’s most defining enjoyments? Remember, the status of music can only be changed by each individual listener. Let us direct our attention not towards bland, repetitive music that has no deeper meaning. Let us instead seek out music, because there are acts out there that are promising, but they are only repressed because of the way music is today. Let us not neglect these promising new faces in music, but instead look for them, look for a new sound and heart for popular music.