Does today’s music suck? You probably have already proclaimed a loud “Yes!” in your head. You’ve also probably been told it’s all a matter of opinion and, while that’s true to an extent, it’s also largely false. The music of today actually sucks and I’m going to give you a scientific and logical reason as to why, so you can finally proclaim to all your friends after you’ve read this article – “See, I told you I was right!”
Due to the vast disparity of our readers here at identitydixie.com, I want to make a point clear – that this is not aimed particularly at your specific tastes in music. One of my goals here is to put a face to that nagging feeling or thought you’ve had either for years or decades. It’s no secret, for the most part, that most of the new music you hear on the radio is pure trash. Occasionally, some good new music breaks through, but it’s rare and becoming even rarer. It’s a symptom of the times we live in.
You’ve probably at some point heard people who are older than you say, “they don’t make music like they used to.” Both you and those older folks are right, actually. Modernity’s music sucks and is essentially noise pollution.
Music has been around probably as long as man has. It’s used to convey stories of things that have happened or things we are going through. Old music had a message, soul and reason for existing outside of putting money in an artist’s pocket or a record label. By comparison, a vast majority (not all mind) of “new music” lacks these traits and you can hear it, as well as, feel it.
Now, most mainstream modern music is formulated factory-produced noise and little else. In fact, take a listen to this viral video that features several country “hits” and then another one which mashed all of these into what may be considered a new song.
To understand music it’s important to understand the roles instruments are supposed to play in drawing out that “feel” or “soul” in a song. Every musician knows the different elements various instruments can bring into a song and it does play heavily into the character of a song. Instruments have different highs and lows which add depth to a piece, as well as, nuances and subtlety, which you pick up after listening to a song a few times. That’s if it’s good anyway.
The first of modernity’s music crimes on our list ties directly into this lack of instrument-use in today’s “music,” but also how these highs and lows are manipulated post-production. Today, these highs and lows refer to the compression of a song. By bringing all the peaks of lower tones and instruments to match the high peaks, you essentially make the song louder even if you haven’t actually turned up the volume. The consequence of doing this removes the soul behind a song, thus making it flat.
In music, there is a part of the song known as the “hook.” Its mission is to do exactly as it implies, hook you into the song. Traditionally, you built up to the hook like a play or a good movie does. The hook is not to be confused with the conclusion of the song. The hook is usually before the middle of the song but not right at the beginning or immediately near the beginning most of the time if you are doing it right. That is one of the chief problems of music today is that where there used to be one or two hooks that built up and really got you into the song now it’s right at the beginning. You can blame short attention spans for this as well as people these days will generally not listen to a song if it doesn’t hook them right away. This isn’t to say you can’t put it at the beginning or directly after the beginning of a song but when you have a song composed of almost nothing but hooks you take away it’s character as it’s only meant to grab your attention.
The second crime to cover is lyrics themselves. Obviously it’s trash these days and repetitive sometimes even in a completely different song you can see variations of words which all mean the same exact thing. This ties into lyric intelligence which essentially boils down to how intelligent the lyrics are when you read them. A simple term to help you remember this instead of the technical term is creativity.
Lyric intelligence, as it’s called, has dropped increasingly over the past decades. This is chief among reasons why you repeatedly hear a lot of the same things or lyrics in songs. Ever notice how almost all modern “country” music is about trucks, women, drinking, back roads, driving, etc? These are generic things which realistically anyone can write a song and sing about or have someone sing it for them. Sure they may be rural or country, but they are generic; formulaic if you will.
So, when you start adding all of this up where does that leave us? The third crime.
Traditionally, music was essentially a popular vote. It may not have felt like it, but the money you spend on albums and songs is, in a sense, a vote. It tells a record company that people like this music or sound and to keep signing an artist. If you’ve ever wondered how a song appears on the radio, I’m going to be answering that for you.
Once upon a time, if you were an aspiring artist who wanted to make it big you and your buddies got together with your band and either recorded a song or paid for time in a studio to record a song. This recording along with hundreds of if not thousands upon thousands of others was then listened to by people at the record label. If it sounded good or they think it would become something more they would offer you a contract. On this contract you and your band would do some recordings and the record label would pay to have it distributed to various radio stations they were partnered with. The record label is investing in you with the risk that your music may or may not be liked and thus make your band as well as them money.
If you wondered why each past decade had a sort of sound or soundtrack to go with it this is why. Sometimes these risks paid off big for a record label and sometimes amounted to a ton of wasted money on their behalf when it flops. This is why things like genre standings, top song lists, etc, mattered. It used to be that you the listener decided what was popular and what made it on air versus what didn’t by buying it. The first time you hear a song on the air are its trial period, so to speak. Then, when it’s released and whether you buy it or not, decides the fate of some band or artist’s career. This meant that bands, records and artists needed to actually put out good music if they wanted to stay in business. As mentioned previously, a certain amount of risk was involved and I’ll get to why I say that in a minute.
You may have heard the song “Video Killed The Radio Star.” This song was written and published for a reason – highlighting the concern that things such as MTV were beginning to have on traditional record sales. While you might scoff at this even now, I implore you to look at the consequences it has brought with the garbage music we have today. I’d take things a step further and say the internet killed the radio star. Two massive deathblows which the music industry has not recovered from. Why should a record label take the risk on a new artist or band when we live in an age that if you don’t like a song you move on to the next one instantly? If actual depth and character is boring because it has to be built up properly, why should they risk potentially millions of dollars that could bankrupt their business when the song doesn’t hook people instantly and keep them wanting more?
This risk averse behavior is directly to blame for the current state of the music industry, not only in the South on country radio, but all over the ENTIRE Western world. The other blame lays with us, the consumers of music. This is further compounded by piracy on the internet or illicit reproduction of music, which benefits neither the creator or record label.
This is further exacerbated by the formalization of music in every single genre. Once, there were distinct differences between different genres, even if you didn’t listen to them. A vast majority of major hits that come out by different artists are written by the same people (even more shockingly because as it stands right now, it works).
Another technique record labels use today to get music out is throwing it in your face everywhere you go, even if you don’t like it, you will listen. That box office hit you just watched, that public event you were just at, that commercial that just came on, that radio station you are listening to, that article you might have just read about an artist? It’s all there, the same thing, constantly in your face and there’s a reason for this.
We humans like familiarity. Whether that’s a stable job, home, the family, church, or anything else, we actually don’t like change. It’s actually a basic survival instinct. By employing psychology, record labels and song writers have learned how to tap into this trait to influence record sales. Just like everything else these days, it’s become about the bottom line. You can’t blame them for wanting to keep the lights on and feed their families. After all, you only want to do the same right? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist using a propaganda technique to prove a point from my last article.)
So, what has happened to the music industry that once gave us great artists like Waylon Jennings, Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Clint Black, George Strait, Little Texas, Johnny Cash and a whole host of others way too long to list here?
Death by a thousand cuts. The music industry has been and is slowly dying. As a result, so is music itself. Things like streaming, portable media, the internet, etc, are to blame.
How do we retake our music? After all, isn’t this what this is all about? Going back to what made us strong? Bringing back tradition? I’ll tell you what you can do, as counter intuitive as it may sound – stop buying and listening to new music. Sounds crazy, right? Well, if you read everything up until this point it makes sense. The message that needs to be sent is that we will no longer be mindless consumers. We want quality. This same exact logic can be applied to any number of other products, from food to vehicles.
Cheap is not always best. It’s cheap for a reason. The added benefit is this makes it unnecessary for government intervention or rule making to regulate basic standards. Your ancestors demanded seat belts as a standard safety feature because they were tired of their kids dying in muscle cars. Ultimately, the government made it a regulation, but it serves to highlight that manufacturers kept making vehicles without them because they kept making a profit. It wasn’t until it was too late, that people realized maybe it was a good idea to have three point seat belts to keep you from flying through your windshield in a crash. Thus, the government stepped in to meet that need.
By voting with your money (early, before it’s too late) you keep the government out of your life. After all, that is or was the basic job of government, to represent its people and protect them from threats which they themselves could not.
You have a choice Southerner. I made mine. Will you join me? Stop listening to this garbage.
Take care, God bless you and God bless Dixie.
When Otto isn’t turning wrenches, you can hear the sound of him griping to himself about the state of the modern world echoing off the pine and oak trees that he emerges on occasion to harass carpetbaggers and Yankees.