Archive for the ‘80s Music’ Category

Maybe it’s a sign of aging, but I find myself longing for music of the past more and more these days. I’ve never hidden the fact that the current state of music is deplorable compared to when I grew up. But this isn’t a post about that. It’s a post about trying to (rhetorically) figure out what truly connects a person to music, and if that changes over time, across generations and through individuals.

(Note: Everyone’s experience with music is different; I’m not trying to make all-encompassing blanket statements. These are just my observations over the years.)

When I was a kid, all my musical influences lay in the hands of my older family members. As such, it was all 80s rock – U2, INXS, Duran Duran, etc. At that time, cassette tapes were the only vehicle for music, and I still remember this INXS tape we had – 1987’s Kick album, loaded with classics like “Need You Tonight” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” I used to play that tape over and over and over again on my small pink tape player (that came with earbuds!) I would just lay on the ground, headphones in, and listen.

I continued on like this, album after album (including The Little Mermaid Soundtrack) until U2 essentially took over my entire world. I had this one U2 mixtape that I spent hours upon hours crafting, timing every track to perfection. I must’ve listened to it countless times over years and years. At the time, I had a shiny silver Sony Walkman that automatically switched the tape’s sides. I knew every single word to every single song on that tape – they were my first favourite band of all time, and felt like a part of me.

Adolescence is a time when one is easily influenced, inspired. We hang on to things that (we think) mean something to us. If we’re angry, we like loud music. If we like to dance, we pick dance music. Our minds are so malleable and spongey, we can absorb anything. During such a precious time, it’s also easy to just follow what your friends are doing, so you won’t feel left out. For me, it was a combination – my entire school listened to grunge in the 90s, therefore I did too. However, I also enjoyed the music, and felt some connection to it, because it became about learning about an entire genre, and all the bands involved.

But here’s what I’m trying to figure out: when I hear 90s music now, do I love it because of that previous connection to it, because of nostalgia? Is it attached to specific memories, or a more care-free time? Or do I truly think it’s better than a lot of the music of today? If I heard that same music now, what would I think? Would I enjoy it the same way, would it speak to me in the same way? Or was it just a right time, right place scenario? Let’s be real, grunge doesn’t exist anymore (in spite of some pitiful attempts at a comeback); it died a long time ago – is that why it has such a pull over me?

Same would go for those who are fans of 60s-70s music – maybe that attachment comes from the notion that there currently isn’t any music out there that resembles anything from back then. Maybe they feel like they experienced the birth and demise of a genre. Its evolution and inability to survive in the current world. Maybe they just miss it. In previous decades, music had so much more to say. Musicians used their voices to make statements.

Nowadays, the industry has gotten soft. No one (rather, not many) talk about anything real, which is why everything is so interchangeable and unrecognizable. It all kind of blurs together. For example, millennials all think Drake is the almighty – but will they still think that in 10 years? Or is it because they hear his songs at clubs and bars right now? In 10 year’s time though, will they still be going to clubs? Moreover, even if they did, would Drake still be playing over the speakers? Has the music scene just changed now?

These days, music can be heard anywhere and everywhere – which is great. But that also makes a lot of room for noise. I wonder if in this day and age, it’s possible to really connect to an artist, and still feel connected years later. If it is possible, I feel like it’ll still be different than how music was felt in the past; when you earned the ability to listen to a track over and over. You had to save up. You had to really want it, and if the album wasn’t all that good, you wouldn’t delete it or toss it, you’d make yourself listen because you invested in it. You would give it a real, solid chance.

Year after year, there’s so much turnover in tracks too, so many singles released, that it’s tough to really feel the impact of any of them, due to so much output volume. It seems as though Selena Gomez releases a track every week, so how does one even keep track? With programs like Spotify, essentially every single song you could ever want in life, can be found there. You don’t have to buy the album and only play it on your CD player, or if you’re lucky, in your car. You don’t have to commit to an artist.

You can download a track just as easily as you can delete it. No one has Walkmen/Discmen (RIP) anymore, so all music on-the-go comes from their phones. The flow of which can easily be interrupted by phone calls, txt msgs and taking photos. How are young people supposed to understand how to truly value music? People these days don’t get obsessed with albums; they get obsessed with songs. One track.

Don’t get me wrong, I use Spotify too – guilty as charged. It’s the easiest, fastest way to get a track I want when I want it. I don’t have invest so much time/energy in its acquisition. But here’s the thing: I kind of miss that process. I kind of miss getting to know the music, the artist. I kind of miss opening the plastic wrap around the CD. I kind of miss analyzing the album art, and flipping through the lyric books and footnotes. I kind of really miss that connection.

 

 

There’s a lot to be said about 2016, good or bad. Personally, I had a great 2016, one of the best years ever. Musically, however, I did not.

Aside from this blog, I’ve also been contributing to an online entertainment site, examiner.com for about 4 years. Anything from album reviews, concert reviews, new releases, etc. More of an objective journalistic approach to music writing compared to the much more subjective stuff I write here. The site got bought out by axs.com, and was going to shut down mid-2016. I assumed everything would be the same, just under a different banner. Obviously I was wrong, and by the time I figured it out, it was too late. Over 100 articles I wrote, vanished into thin air; gone, just like that, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

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Over the last 6 years or so, I’ve been taking guitar lessons. First on an acoustic, then gradually switched over to electric (which is way more fun/easy to play.) I started at a music school, then when my instructor had to move, we still managed to keep it up, even resorting to sessions over Skype. That lasted a while, but as life goes, the time for it on both our ends became less and less, and towards the tail end of 2016, I had to throw in the towel, which disconnected me from a part of music that had been in my life for some time. Now my guitars just sit in the corner of the living room, as decoration.

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My musical game also took a dive: my ear wasn’t as close to the ground as it has been in the past, and I’ve fallen behind on new music. During 2016, Torrent sites were constantly being shut down, so it was hard to get and sample any new music. If I heard a song I liked, my routine used to be: download the album, listen to it on repeat for a couple of weeks. Then go back and download earlier albums of the same artist (if applicable,) to create a well-informed opinion. Nowadays, singles drop left, right and centre. Some are on albums, some are bonus tracks, some are B-sides. It’s becoming more difficult to get everything in one place. Spotify is great, but like the mind of today’s younger generation, it also has no attention span. There’s no time to really fall in love with an artist, because every day, new ones pop up out of nowhere.

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Then there were all the musician deaths, particularly the ones that hit me most. David Bowie’s came first, in January, and it stung. I was never a huge fan, but I did know his music. His persona was also something to be admired because he was different; eccentric; fearless. Prince’s passing followed in April, and that hit much closer to home. I’d seen Prince live a few years ago, during a show where he played at least 7 encores. He was incredible in all aspects of his musicianship and artistry. Even my mom was even a huge fan.

On Christmas Day, there was George Michael, and I was stunned. I’ve had the privilege of growing up with older cousins and an older sibling, so in the 80s, I was always in tune with great music. I learned about U2, INXS, and Duran Duran; plus, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and George Michael. He was practically a household name. In fact, my brothers and I used to dance around the house, air-guitaring and  lip singing to “Faith.” I’m also pretty sure George Michael was the first sex symbol I knew (before actually knowing what a sex symbol was.)

When I got older, I found out he was also part of Wham!, and the genius behind “Careless Whisper.” He disappeared for a while from the music scene in the late 90s, but resurfaced with Patience in 2004, and this hit single – he was unstoppable. I don’t know a life without George Michael. I don’t know a music industry without George Michael.

If the musical chaos of 2016 is evidence of anything, it’s that everything changes. Leaders change, people change, life changes. Relationships change, work changes, you change. The lesson is: act now (well, after you finish reading this.) Don’t wait for the timing to be right, because it will never be “right.” You just never know what the future holds, so why wait?

On April 21st, 2016, legendary artist Prince passed away. That hit a little too close to home. I won’t say I grew up with Prince’s music, but I never knew a time when Prince’s music wasn’t there making waves. Although I haven’t seen Purple Rain, the title track is etched in my memory because it’s that good. Prince’s music spanned generations, crossed decades and influenced all ages along the way (case in point: the one and only time I saw him live, my mom came with me.)

It’s hard to imagine a musical world without Prince. Not just because he’s been around for so many years, but because he never stopped creating. Whether it was changing his name to a symbol, writing lyrics, making music, playing guitar/piano – he was always in the zone. That dedication, that love for music itself is such a rarity these days. In this day and age, there aren’t many artists whose eccentricity, originality and intrigue come even close to Prince’s. Very few have it all: the writing, the producing, the voice, the ability to play instruments.

A lot of the artists blowing up the charts these days are basically kids who have all grown up in the industry, and just keep reinventing their image to stay relevant. But their music is all interchangeable. Everyone’s a one-trick pony, told to dance for the crowds, singing songs written by other people. They come and go in the blink of an eye, maximize the limelight while they can, then disappear. Is this all the music industry has going for it?

Don’t get me wrong: there are obviously musicians out there keeping true to the essence of the music itself, but a lot of them remain unheard. That’s because times have changed, technology has changed, and the music industry has also changed. It’s less and less about quality and more and more about numbers. How many records sold, how many downloads, how many hits, how much money made; how many social network platforms are being used, how to stay in the spotlight at any cost. After all, any kind of fame is good fame.

I mean, someone please tell me what Taylor Swift is doing that’s so revolutionary. She’s constantly praised and acknowledged, but isn’t doing anything remarkable. The majority of mainstream artists are only mediocre when you focus on talent alone. But since it’s slim pickings out there, music fans are forced to go with the flow, roll with the punches. They don’t have any  Prince to look upto, be inspired by; no Bowie to show them how it’s done, no Michael Jackson to take things to the next level.

For future generations, I urge you; I plea with you to make better decisions. Don’t choose what’s in your face because you’re just too lazy to dig a little deeper. Don’t fall for the Twitter feuds, Snapchat faux pas, and leaked albums. Don’t believe the fabricated hype, because as an older more mature music fan I can tell you right now: none of it’s real.