“What is happening to music nowadays?” Said someone with perceived last generation tastes.
“Music is evolving, with technology there are even more sounds to layer with voices and instruments.” Replies the on-trend person in the know of such things.
It’s recently come to my attention that much of the new music being produced should be described as ‘tracks’ rather than ‘songs’. Tracks, by my definition, are highly produced synth and sound, often sparse or lyric free and too often come with some highly misogynistic/anti humanitarian(ish) rapping. In contrast, songs are a melding of lyrics and melody, notes and chords with rhythm and emotion that resonates whether you have a musical background or not. Perhaps you’ll think I’m exaggerating but that’s how I hear it.
I can’t fairly proclaim to only like music that has musical merit. I enjoy casual pop music which is fun and carefree because it doesn’t have to be clever nor is it trying to be. The best pop music in my view is from the 90s. It’s simple, bold, colourful and not afraid to be judged – with just a hint of angst. Katy Perry’s music often personifies the modern evolution of this, with its candy land fun. There are definitely some attention grabbers in her catalogue, ones that play to the media and the expectations of record labels, but on the whole you can dance to ‘Firework’ and sing along to ‘Teenage Dream’.
One unit of pop music which I find it difficult to grasp is The Boy Band (and the Girl Band). Slowly, over the decades, groups of singers harmonising and performing as a unit of sound have become diluted with appearances and style over their substance. The 90s to early 00s saw the last few smatterings of a vague balance between the people and the music, such as The Spice Girls, but only because it was a niche for a little while. Now, we are inundated with autotuned, glossy, low impact bands that producers overproduce so much that they hide any real talent the singers have. What’s the point? Are we supposed to believe that these people don’t have real voices with quirks and kinks that make them unique? When did that become a bad thing?
It’s very rare that I can find a new artist that makes me feel with their music the same way I feel when I listen to artists such as James Taylor or The Supremes. You can hear their passion, their heartache, their music expressed through their actual voices. People who surprise us with their voices, people like Susan Boyle, are paraded about as the rare spring in the desert, but they are as quickly forgotten for a mid range song and a provocative video. I’m not saying a little sexy with your music is the end of the world but how long can it still be sexy.
One particular artist blurs the lines for me a little, because she isn’t, I believe, doing it for anyone but herself. That is Taylor Momsen, formerly on Gossip Girl and even more formerly in The Grinch as little Cindy Loo Who. She now tours with rock band The Pretty Reckless. Most importantly, she’s a damn good singer. She sings well, her lyrics are good; even if not to your style tastes, and she gave up her acting career to pursue her personal passion, in a move that critics have almost universally panned as, well, reckless. Listen to something live and you can hear everything she has to offer without the latex suits and dark scenes.
I want to know, what songs really move people? I doubt anyone would/ could name an emotive “club anthem”.