Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

Music promotes diversity, and there’s a place for all of it in this world. It’s a global form of expression, irrespective of race, culture or geography. It’s an art fueled by passion and creativity. It’s inspiring, healing and moving. But that seems to be a thing of the past. Like people, music evolves and changes over time. Nowadays though, music has changed so much that is has completely lost its meaning.

Maybe it’s a generation thing; maybe today’s artists are bored and can’t find anything to sing/write about, so they find anything to sing/write about. The Beatles reached such great heights when they did because their music promoted peace and love in a war-torn planet. Musicians were making statements, standing up for what they believed in, using their creative energies to tell us how they felt. But the current generation of musicians is part of a society that is so driven by money and excess. Every career decision is based on profits, while the quality of music takes a back seat.

Maybe it’s the Internet’s fault. A couple of decades ago, social media wasn’t even a term, and now everything revolves around the online world. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts are used to keep fans in the loop, along with YouTube and Vimeo. As a result, people care more about Kimye, than Kanye’s music. You hear less and less about a musician’s work, and more and more about their personal lives (ie who’s dating who, etc) This generation of musicians lives off social media, and knows how to use its power to their advantage. As such the quality of their music suffers, because everyone (themselves included) pays less attention to it, so what we get is (at best) decent karaoke singers with no appreciation for the art of music:

Take the recent Twitter feud between Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj. Synopsis: Minaj felt shortchanged because her video wasn’t nominated for some award (even though she was nominated for other awards) and she blamed it on racism towards black female artists. Her track “Anaconda” did have millions of views, but here’s a thought: maybe people watched it because of its shock value, or maybe because of how much it resembled porn. Swift, who sings about ex-bfs and ex-bffs, took the Tweet as a personal attack, then they argued about feminism, then everyone apologized. Petty and narcissistic, not to mention, don’t they have anything else to talk about?

Recently, rapper Meek Mill accused Drake of not writing his own lyrics, which lead to a rap beef between them. Instantly, Drake (or his ghostwriter) put together not 1 but 2 diss tracks to claim the throne in this battle. But when 2 people got shot at his after party, he goes silent for days. Maybe because his PR people told him to, maybe he didn’t know what to say. But how about you rap about that, Aubrey? How about you use your mega-super-ultra fame to address that, instead of (having your ghostwriter) post a blog about it. If he’s revered as one of the best rappers of his time (so lucky Tupac isn’t around anymore,) why doesn’t he prove it and actually say something?

Maybe it’s the fans’ fault too. We eat up the drama too easily. We salivate at controversies, so those in the music industry don’t actually have to care much about their music. They can rely on auto-tune, image, production tricks, and other cheats to make themselves appear better, so why bother putting in any hard work, when they can take the easy way out? Because we let them get away with it. We let them make money off sub-par material, because our expectations for quality music are so low, even mediocrity stands tall. This Rihanna track is a perfect example: here’s an incredibly talented artist capable of so much more, but decides this is what she wants to use her success to say. Where’s the substance?

I get it. There’s enough crap and misery going on in this world, not everyone wants to hear about it in the music they listen to regularly. I also get that music is subjective, so I’m not saying every artist has to be dark and brooding, or that every musician has to make political statements or start some sort of revolution. I’m even okay with fun songs designed to make you dance in a club. But just because a track has a dope beat, that doesn’t give it the right to be about nothing (ie “Turn Down for What.”) I’m just asking for a little more effort on the musician’s part to make music for the love of making music; not because they need even more money than they already have. Their music should make us feel something, really feel something inside; it should mean something. But only a select few artists (like these guys) are doing that these days.

Music today doesn’t require the same amount of artistry as it once did. Anyone can be a DJ, all they need is a laptop. So many musicians sample beats from older songs, and just put a new spin on it. It’s like there’s nothing left to make music about, except there’s so much left to make music about. Musicians aren’t musicians anymore; they’re just fads. The majority of the current generation of musicians don’t seem to care though. They have so much reach, so much influence, so many people paying attention, ready to listen. But they use their voice to make money instead of making a difference. They no longer create art, because they don’t have to. That’s why music’s dead.

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.