Still Waiting

Posted: September 8, 2010 in Boy Bands, Music Industry, Pop, Rap
Tags: , , , , , ,
Icons create music that is inspiring, original, revolutionary, shocking. They combine memorable lyrics with unforgettable sounds, enabling their music to stand the test of time, even at their end. They develop a large following of devoted fans who are continually inspired and allow these musicians to go on creating. Over the last decade or so though, a musician’s popularity seems to be so fleeting: no one musician has really stood out; no one has really made a significant mark on music. And I’m trying to figure out why.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Maybe everything has already been done. Musicians nowadays have adopted the same fate as the fashion world, and have resorted to recycling past trends and trying to re-introduce them. Since Madonna started the whole sensation of women and hypersexuality in the 80s, a trendsetter if you will, there have been a plethora of female artists who have tried to do the same: Britney Spears (“I’m a Slave 4 U” – way to be subtle),  Xtina Aguilera (“Dirrty”, which was just, well, dirty) and more recently Lady GaGa (who has hit a whole new level of raunchy). Problem is, it’s never as successful, because they’re more like versions of the original, more followers than leaders. Now I understand as years go on, every musician is going to be inspired by someone who preceded them, that’s a given; but has the concept of originality totally evaporated?
Take P. Diddy: here’s a guy who essentially gained his popularity  remixing other people’s songs. All he did was update the music a little and add some rap to it – that’s classic recycling (just ask The Police.) It was pointed out to me recently that Diddy (formerly known as Puff Daddy – the name change seemingly did no wonders for his career) never said he was a rapper, but he was first and foremost a producer. Fair enough. But either way, taking someone else’s original music and slightly altering it, isn’t producing or creating – it’s copy/pasting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that there is no musician out there that is doing anything original;  I’m focusing more on popular music, music that’s on the radio, on music channels, music that people request. I’m just trying to find a reason no one has any staying power anymore. When is there going to be a first of someone, instead of a next of someone else?

Maybe there’s nothing left to sing about. A lot of iconic music stems from the fact that it came out during a period in time when music was essential. A lot of the music in the 60s had to do with the anti-war sentiment. Heck that’s how Woodstock was created: a 3-day music festival to make love and not war. Music at that time became so popular because people could hold on to it, people could relate to it, people needed it. The Beatles were the first all-boy pop group and were largely successful, not because they were hugely talented (right Travis?), but because their music was about peace, love and wanting to hold your hand (ignoring the popular belief it was all about drugs). Their music affected an entire generation, as well as those that followed because it meant something, it was timeless – how can peace and love ever go out of style? These days, no one really sings about current world issues. On occasion there will be a song or two to help raise money for natural disasters in foreign countries, but no one really addresses any issues in their music. And those that do, (ie Bono/U2) are bands that have been around for decades, who already have staying power.

Let’s take rap music: I am definitely not a connoisseur, but according to a very reliable source, when rap music first started, it was about something, it had a message. Whether it was political or racial, rappers had something to say, and wanted to be heard. What I do know is that nowadays, (with few exceptions, ie Eminem) rap is completely ridiculous. No one is singing about anything real – it’s all about bitches and hos, money, poppin’ Cristal and rockin’ some bling. Is there anyone out there who really wants grills? Even with my limited knowledge about the rap genre, I definitely know that Tupac had a lot more to say than Lil’ Jon, Nelly or Young Jeezy.

Maybe music just isn’t about music anymore. It’s about what sells: and in this day and age that’s everything but the music. How else do you explain the mere existence of boy bands?? Mildly talented groups of young attractive boys dancing in sync (no pun intended) and capturing the hearts of all teenage girls; and this is captain obvious speaking, sex sells. Problem is, girls don’t stay teenagers forever, and neither do Backstreet Boys. Sooner or later they stop caring if Nick Carter wears boxers or briefs, and they move on. And boy bands fade because their music alone was never good enough to take them anywhere.

What also seems to sell these days is anything that gains media attention: be it pregnancy, marriage, rehab, jail, appearing on reality tv shows, you name it. As long as there is some sort of drama or scandal involved, any sub par artist can become famous, even if for only 15 minutes. Britney Spears has been married what 3 times now (once to K-Fed who somehow managed to release a rap record), and shaved her head for no reason whatsoever. She somehow put out 2 records during all of this, possibly hoping that her sudden media attention would help her music sell, who knows. The unfortunate part is, people will remember her for her antics – not her music, because her music is not memorable.

T.I. was on his way up the charts, when he got arrested for weapons possession and was sentenced to jail. But right before that, he managed to put together a reality show, awesomely named “T.I.’s Road to Redemption” where he would go around trying to convince teens to not take the path he had taken, and in turn by saving them, he would save himself. Wow. Dumbest idea ever, especially considering he recently got arrested again, this time on drug possession charges. What a great mentor. T.I. very possibly did this over-dramatic TV show just to make sure he wouldn’t be forgotten while he was in jail. Total fail. Once the media stops caring about him, there is no way his music will ever survive. I think his 15 minutes are up.
Compare that with MJ: here’s an extremely talented musician who had more than enough personal issues, was involved in countless scandals, yet at the end of the day, his music was so powerful that everything else faded away.

I could go on about this for days, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Music shouldn’t need an image, it shouldn’t need a specific demographic, it shouldn’t need to be tied to a scandal – it should simply sell itself. No musician really tries to be a legend, you just become one, and as years go on, it becomes more and more difficult to stand out. Maybe there are musicians just starting out who will one day be iconic, we just don’t know it yet. For now,  I’m still waiting.

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