We live in an odd time.
From what we wear, what we watch, and what we laugh at.
But also what we listen to.
The idea for this piece dawned on me as I clocked out of the restaurant I work at. After hearing the same eight songs on repeat for seven hours, it felt more than refreshing to walk to my car and listen to CDs.
It really scares me that people could not only stand listening to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” and Post Malone and Young Thug’s “Goodbyes,” but actually enjoy it.
Part of me wants to believe that my mom and dad had these same feelings towards the songs that hit the top charts back in their time, but I surely know that the likes of Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Robert Plant, Paul McCartney and many more artists of the ‘80s carry much more talent and diversity than the same songs we listen to on the radio, day in and day out.
Musicians in today’s time are almost entirely controlled by their labels, which in the musician’s eyes is very much worth the payout. The bad side is the fact that the ‘pop’ sound being created is just adding to the blend of unoriginal content that plagues popular radio stations everywhere.
Country, Hip Hop, and ‘Rock’ are all becoming one mesh of a pop-sounding genre (emphasis on the apostrophes around the term “rock” because I refuse to refer to Vampire Weekend as such).
In the rock genre, its evolution has plateaued. Rock n’ roll has had quite the diverse upbringing, from blues rock, hard rock, metal, grunge, and many other subcategories. Now, we are left with indie rock, and the radio-pop rock that plays on popular stations.
Today, it is relatively easy to produce a beat, whether or not your friend who sells $10 SoundCloud beats would like to admit it. There was a time where people had to buy thousands in equipment and instruments, and spend days, to even compose a beat. With modern technology making it so easy to produce a beat for everyone aspiring to be the next big thing, you’re going to see a lot more songs with less quality production floating around, and getting popular.
Take Led Zeppelin for example (the greatest band of all time, in my opinion). Led Zeppelin experimented with different riffs, sounds, and vocal effects to evolve rock into a powerhouse genre. With the angelic voice of Robert Plant, guitar maestro Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and the best drummer of all time, John Bonham, it is hard to not appreciate the Zep for what they blessed us with. In this generation, you will not find a group that does what Led Zeppelin did – experiment. The mainstream doesn’t value a good riff anymore; it values a few chords played over an overly produced beat, fitting the standards of today’s mainstream wave.
My point is, it terrifies me where the music industry is headed towards. And as a listener, it should scare you as well. Record labels’ grip over what we listen to is stronger than any other generation before us. Sure, they had an extremely strong grip on artists from the ‘60s to the early 2000’s, but we have reached a plateau. Do you think we will ever see something as experimental as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” or Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” ever again?
The songs above all have one thing in common. They revolutionized rock and roll, with a different sound. They wrote music knowing that it may not be widely accepted, but still invested time and money to create some of the rock ballads we know them as today. Even paving the way for the creation of multiple subgenres we know of as grunge, metal, and progressive rock.
What can you do to help, you ask? Dig deeper into your music listening. Many artists today are getting undercut by label companies, and their potential is getting tarnished by those who have power over them.
Go to a record store. Boo Boo Records is a great place to listen and spend time at. Support local or independent artists. San Luis has an abundance of local artists and bands, and many venues to watch live performances, so go out and find some new artists to listen to.
This is such a bland take. The radio has played the top 20 most popular songs of the moment since the radio started playing music. It’s not a new phenomenon.
You say that bands don’t “experiment” anymore like Led Zeppelin and Nirvana did, but I’d argue that there are far more experimental bands now than ever before. You just have to dig a little deeper than the top 40 station (as has always been the case with truly cutting-edge music). Just this year we’ve had new albums from Xiu Xiu, Matmos, 100 gecs, JPEGMAFIA, and way more — all of which sound completely new and refreshing.
Of course there aren’t new experimental bands that sound like Led Zep anymore; if they sounded anything like Led Zep, they wouldn’t be doing anything new. With the internet, you don’t need a major label to get your music out there, so artists have the freedom to go way beyond anything that could have been released in the 60s and 70s. (Also, it makes me skeptical that you decry the loss of innovative and experimental music while only pointing to mainstream bands that weren’t even especially experimental for their time.)
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