Sunday, February 27, 2011

When Did Music Start Sucking?

More than 30 years ago, I stood in a record store in Florida with my grandfather, who told me I could get whichever album I wanted. Back in 1977, the choice was easy: KISS Alive II.  I was a KISS fan, it was a double album, and it had this great shot of a bloody-faced Gene Simmons on the cover.

Sadly, it was that very picture that made my mother forbid me from getting it.  I gave the "you're too old to understand" speech and theorized that my mom hated my music in the same way her parents probably hated her music.  Interesting theory, but I still ended up with ELO's Out of the Blue.  

I think I liked the spaceship on the cover.

The so-called controversy over this year's Grammy Awards made me realize not only how much I've become my mother, but how much today's music really sucks.  I didn't watch, but I read the outrage around Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year instead of Eminem, and Esperanza Spalding winning Best New Artist over Justin Beiber.  What really happened is that actual music won out over popularity and sales figures.

When did music turn to crap?  Sure, there are some good songs out there right now.  But how many of them will be popular in 30 years?  Which artist(s) will still be playing in 2041, and not as a nostalgia act at the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning but as something that reaches across the generations?  Who is this generation's Billy Joel?  Bruce Springsteen?  U2?  The Beatles? (Okay, that one's unfair.) I know I'm showing my age and maybe I "don't get it," but there's something to be said for the fact that these artists are still as relevant today as they were in the early 70s.

I know I'm a music snob.  I fully embrace my inner Johnny Fever, who refused to play top 40 no matter how many times Andy Travis begged him to.  Classic Rock is called classic not because it's old, but because it stands the test of time.  These are songs that say something.  They have an impact on us, both musically and lyrically.  And none of the titles ended with, "feat. Lil' Wayne."  They weren't covers, they weren't remakes.  They told stories and spoke about the time in which they were written.  They...okay, I'm overstating it a little.  But the fact remains that you won't be buying Justin Bieber tickets for your kids in 30 years.  You won't be lamenting for Jay-Z's "older stuff."  That's because today's music is temporary and will fade away just as Hansen did in the 90s, or Shawn Cassidy did in the 70s.  

So when did music stop being music?  I'm trying to think about artists after 1985 (when U2 and Springsteen reigned).  It's true that the 90s begat a whole new musical movement with the grunge acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots.  But we're 20 years from "Nevermind" and none of the grunge acts are really relevant anymore.  Has anyone since 1985 made music that will still be meaningful to our kids?

Anyway, I guess the lesson is that every generation thinks their music is the best.  The only difference is that my generation is right and the current generation is painfully wrong.

"This one's for you, fellow babies: Booooogerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!"



Anonymous said...

Interesting, I personally do not enjoy Springstein, KISS, or U2,But I like a lot of classic rock. I am not sure that the music you mention is as timeless as you purport. Or rather, I mean to say they are timeless because there is a larger, older, constituency that keeps it alive, makes their kids listen to it, etc.I do not deny they actual musicians, which cannot be said of most of today's popular music.

Certain artists will be more remembered than others, others will be remembered through niche markets (KISS). I think the main difference today is that Popular music is so derivative and manufactured, and people have to look a lot harder to find anything of quality. There were craptastic pop artists in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, but the one's we remember are the greats. Today great artists could never be popular.

For me, the last time period that had some quality pop music to me was the early the mid 90's: consequently before I started listening to music, so I do not have the nostalgia factor.

For reference I am 27 years old.

Anonymous said...

I finally decided that what is known as pop music (never really my mainstay anyway) started sucking for me back right around 1988!

I looked through the pop music rankings going from the mid 60's through to the present.  Yep, right around 1988 pop music started to really suck and big time in my book and it's been downhill ever since.  I lost interest less due to age and far more due to the fact that, YES, it really was getting that bad!  So much trite garbage trying to pass itself off as serious musicianship!  Anyone who had a few tape loops and shallow musicians could put together bland crap that the masses would buy!  Of course the good groups soldiered on but no longer able to appeal to the young bumpkins who listened to crap rap, hip hop, syrupy all sound the same solo girls, and formulaic musical formulae pumped out by the faceless masters of bland mindless pop!  The front end of the industry went to shit right about then.

Sorry, had to share this.  It was an epiphany!

Heartland Patriot said...

I listen to music from (a little) blues from the 1940's through pop punk in the late 90's, and darned near everything in between: rock n' roll, British Invasion, arena rock, classic rock, New Wave, heavy metal, "hair metal", grunge, electronica, even some older rap/hip-hop. But, since somewhere around 2001, the music started to get worse and worse, and now the trash factor is out of control. Gaga? Lil Wayne? Beiber? WTH is wrong with people? They ALL suck...I can't even listen to country because there really isn't any, just that stupid pop crap with a twang...I'm not sure if it was Soundscan or computers in general, but if you hear anything on the radio that is worth a darn in the year 2012, its probably OLD.