By Senol Tibet
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of music is as follows:
“Vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.”
“The art or science of composing or performing music.”
“A sound perceived as pleasingly harmonious.”
We often associate the disliking of modern or current music to “getting old”- but is this simplistic theory really the case?
Let’s explore past artists and strike a comparison with present one’s for a more accurate analysis…
The most common complaint from those who don’t enjoy current music is that there is rarely any art involved with new tracks. Music has certainly become commercialised, with more ‘one-hit wonders’ than ever before. And where many music cultures used to go hand in hand with subculture- punk, rock, hip-hop, etc.
Aside from a handful of great musicians, such as Adele, Alicia Keys and John Legend, the last notable subculture which formed as a result of musical creativity is now decades in the past, indicating that we have somewhat lost the creative edge and substance which influenced youth, fashion and culture, and have now replacements in the form of individual pop stars who portray an image, but not one which influences the masses artistically.
One may even come to the conclusion (especially those of us who had worked in the music Industry for many years) that artists are no longer permitted to express themselves with their original music material, genuine performance and showmanship or image in the name of capitalism. Have sales replaced actual music on the list of priorities in the industry? Is this “safe bet” approach the reason why we will never see the likes of magical master pieces such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” ever again, or Bands like the Beatles? Will we ever hear the sounds of Superstars such as Elvis, Aretha Franklin and Etta James?
Many celebrities have indicated that the downfall in music quality is simply due to the risks involved in developing musicians in terms of money investment. The fine line between profit and loss has made the music industry very nervous to invest in new ideas for music and youth culture, thus, we now have a “one size fits all” fashion, where song writers are hired in order to specifically create tracks with a simple, repetitive formula which subconsciously captures a mass audience, even those who may not particularly like a certain genre of Music.
In an interview with Blabbermouth, guitar legend Slash from the iconic group Guns n Roses said: “On a commercial level, rock and roll is all safe, but underneath all that, there is a great hard-core young movement that is doing rock and roll in earnest. It’s just that the way the business is right now, it’s so corporate that none of these bands will get a shot to do what I got to do, you know? Be discovered in a club and have an A&R person develop the band and get them ready to go into the studio and make a record. And then make a second, third record ’till they really come into their own. Now it’s all about commercial one-hit wonders, and it’s a whole different industry now. But there’s a lot of great rock and roll bands out there that have to go the way it should be done; for the passion and not for the money. It’s not for the glamor of it but because you love it. A lot of people are doing it because they have an agenda.”
Asked if he thinks that there are a lot of talented artists out there today who have the potential but won’t get the kind of opportunities that he did back in the day, Slash responded: “This is a complicated question. I mean, somewhere along the way, people just played music for the love of playing music and somebody else recognizes that you can make money from it, and it’s been a developing thing to the point where, in the ’90s, music business was making so much money that it was bigger than the movie industry, bigger than any of the entertainment industries. There’s the business and there’s the music. I was raised in the business and I remember seeing how there were clashes between people — this is the way to make money and da da da… there was so much money involved. And then the Internet came along and just messed the whole thing up. So now the industry is struggling to figure out how to make money off of it and artists have actually gone to the point of conforming to the industry — how they can make money — so they’re all working together. I think there’s still this whole creative side that hasn’t changed which doesn’t really want to fit into that category, but it’s hard to make a living. So a lot of people do that by playing clubs. But it’s just harder; the opportunities are different from when I started.
So remember the underground movement is where it’s at, and sooner or later it will make it mainstream weather the music industry takes note or not.”
Musicologist Richard Middleton said that “while repetition is a feature of all music, of any sort, a high level of repetition may be a specific mark of ‘the popular’. This allows an enabling of an inclusive rather than exclusive audience”. However, with image consultants, and minor differences between one hit song to another, artists have become almost robotic- unique talent in pursuit of a musical career who are faced with boundaries and constraints.
This has paved the way for a situation where the short term solution (making a ‘quick buck’) will turn into a long term problem, damaging future artistic development.
Is it possible to break into the music industry AND remain original?
The answer is yes. Enter “the underground”…
An example of this happened in the late 80’s with the Acid house movement. This was happening at a time when Stock Akin and Pete Waterman dominated the charts with hit after hit. Where the pop they produced may have been appealing to certain audiences, the rebellious youth was not exactly inspired by the style of bubble gum pop topping the charts. The underground Acid house movement began with the youth creating music from their own studio bedrooms. Talented (and underrated) youths stepped up their initiative and further began to master their tracks on to white label vinyl records.
The result? The explosion of a new youth culture which began taking every Capital City, every nightclub and trendy hang-out spot by storm. The music industry, realising that this was a movement which could not be supressed, began to imitate the legends of the underground, and thus, the dilution of musical youth culture began.
In true fashion of rebellion, the talented underground artists stepped up their game- Jungle, drum n bass, dub step was born. And even the rock scene began adding unique sounds to their image- rough rock and smooth ballads- either way, fresh, new sounds added to their respective genres
It is important to maintain what is really beautiful about music- sound, talent, passion, unity and soul- regardless of the genre. And although it is the youth who often accuse those of us complaining about modern music of simply “getting old”, it is the youth who have the power to create musical movement and culture which will last until THEY become old!