This is a piece I wrote several years ago but still seems to me to apply to the present day music industry. I am still a musician at heart but venues to work in are drying up faster than a droplet of water in a bucket of dry sand.
It’s an abysmal state of affairs these days musically and sadly we all saw it coming.
Some say business is cyclical. I wonder.
Hey, Paul McCartney played the halftime show Super Bowl Sunday, right?
Remembering Miss American Pie
The musicians of the 60’s and 70’s had a wealth of powerful and insightful compositions from which to draw their inspiration. The songs had shine and creative musical integrity that would forever set them apart from today’s musical mainstream.
The music spoke of the dynamic of the human experience; from love found and lost to political innuendo shaking hands with world peace.
The older generation frowned upon these freedoms of expression and saw the music created as an irrevocable evil to be stamped out in the hopes of ending the reign of terror that floated over the airwaves.
From the shaking hips of Elvis to the Mop-Tops from England to the androgynous and enigmatic David Bowie, the music written back then made us think and connect; it gave us an up close and personal view of the broken heart.
So what the hell happened to perceptive content?
Music, in its purest form is therapy, a most fundamental discipline of meditation the human race has, but along the way we altered the magic formula, ultimately changing its destiny as well.
It’s supposed to make you feel good.
Just think of a song that truly means something to you, take out a piece of paper, and jot down five things that come to mind immediately.
Chances are you can come up with more than ten.
That’s the miracle of music; when something unexpected touches the heart.
Much of what I hear today is tainted, biased and so musically inept that when I hear one of these prized gems, I can only wildly shake my head and slobber saliva like an angry PBR bull (which tends to make loved ones around me very uncomfortable).
A rule of thumb for future songwriters regarding lyrics: if it rhymes with shucking but has nothing to do with corn, get out a thesaurus and find another word.
The English language is chock full of them. Really.
It seems that few people write real songs anymore; that is a simple and yet sobering fact, not a generality. If it weren’t for artists like John Mayer and Dave Matthews, I’d have lost my mind by now.
Much of the music today is like bad poetry, arranged, set to a groove from the late eighties, and thrown into a 4,000 track, all digital recorder (yes, all the tracks must be used, read the contract).
Recently, while listening to a song on a brand X radio station out of Boston—the exact frequency slips my mind…you’re welcome—I remember thinking to myself, what language is this guy speaking?
I strained to hear anything remotely intelligible.
Musically speaking, the song was as mundane and pedestrian as an arrangement that oozes from a generic portable keyboard purchased at Wal-Mart.
I also thought that somewhere in the midst of this urban cacophony, I could hear the sound of a dog being run over and over, and over again… I’m not positive about that and maybe it’s just me. Somebody call the ASPCA.
The inspiration for this article came to me as I ambled down Main Street a few weeks ago (us old guys don’t walk, we amble…it’s much hipper) when a pulsating sub-compact Toyota Celica loaded with what sounded like two, maybe three 18-inch subwoofers drove past me towards City Hall, emitting music so thunderous it almost knocked down the lady walking next to me.
Initially, I thought it was just wind.
I didn’t get the license plate number because I was too busy bending over to retrieve my own two eyeballs off the sidewalk.
Sound pressure levels that can cause buildings to vibrate precariously…hmm, I wondered if the Slater Building was up to code on that one.
Nope, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Then there’s the whole debacle surrounding present day artists hiding behind the 5th amendment, and we all can see what a gush of rotting sewage that is, but it doesn’t mean we have to buy a bucketful of it.
When a major proportion of the music available has a “parental advisory” sticker slapped on it, what’s left for those of us who prefer substance in what we listen to?
Maybe we need a special store that caters to people fed up with listening to music and lyrics that insult our intelligence with the glorification of worthless profanity while wasting our hard earned money on garbage that someone in the recording industry somehow deemed fit for human consumption. Bon appétit.
Maybe I’m not meant to understand what all the hype and excitement in the industry is about these days, because I’m no longer a child.
But there’s always that outside chance that as I struggle with my own foreseeable mid-life crisis, I’ll pleasantly discover that perhaps I’ve grown a little bit wiser in the process.
Just watch the Grammy Awards this year for a taste of the ultimate in garishness.
In the end, the music we choose to listen to and support should remain solely in the hands of the listener, but the overall message that it brings should be more of a boon to society as opposed to an outrage against the machine.
Comedian George Carlin hit the proverbial nail on the head when he stated that, “…inside every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud.”
Get out your umbrellas, kids; it looks like rain.
© michaelm 2002