If you have read Before the Cult, you must have noticed that I love music probably because of the way I find to integrate it in the book. You don’t need to go that far to notice it, the first scene is all you need. If you are very analytic and can read between the lines you must have noticed that I like Flying Whales by Gojira. Obviously music is amongst a number of things I seriously think about and I love, which is where this post comes in.
I have noticed something strange. With regards to other types or art, like books or film, our tastes seem to grow and mature with time as we grow older. Think about it for a moment, recall your favourite film when you were in your pre-teens, think about the storyline, the characters and the genre in which it belonged and how you received it in general. Did it emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and morally stimulate you? Now think about your favourite film in your teens. Do you notice something? A tendency to progress onto what is “better”, more developed, complex and engaging? Most of you will probably say “yes”. You would expect the same to be true for some people’s, if not most people’s, tastes in music. And mostly it does seem there is an evolution or progress in our music tastes because you are not finding yourself going to the children’s section when buying music. You have better tastes now. Right?
Well, I’m going to suggest that your music tastes, at least for most people, have not progressed much. I have made an observation. Pop music sounds like nursery rhymes for adults. It has got the excessive repetition (both in lyrics and music), the rhymes and simple, easy to remember, song structures. The difference between nursery rhymes and pop music is the sound and the themes and content. Mostly pop music lyrics are dumbed down & cliche. Seriously, there isn’t much difference. That is what gives these songs their infectiousness. That is what makes them sell, they get stuck in your head and they become an easy and fun thing to sing/follow while you’re super smashed or something. And everyone can join in, even if they don’t know the song I’m sure thirty seconds in the song they will have a pretty good ideas of how the song goes and join in, because of how simple they are. After all, we are social creatures. Now, try humming a guitar solo at some gathering and see how many drunkards join in, even if it is a song they know, they probably won’t. Why? Because they are usually complex and there are a lot more chances you will make a mistake and butcher the whole thing. And before you hurry to point out one or couple of songs that don’t fit the description, I’m not talking about exceptions (I’m not denying there are exceptions within the genre, like in everything else in life there will always be exceptions).
This doesn’t mean I am a hater of rhyming, repetition or and simple song structures. I like it when it is done with effort, intention and creativity. Yes, repetition can be done well, like when it is used to induce a transcendent experience or drive a point that is integral to the message (in other words for emphasis, when the situation requires). If it is a repetition of words, it would be better if the music accompanying it did not sound static or in a loop without progression (an epic good example is The Seer by Swans). If it is repetition in music itself it would be cool if it was accompanied by lyrics or words with a lot more depth and require an active/engaged ear, therefore by making the music repetitive the listener’s attention is drawn to the message (Last City Zero by the industrial metal band Corrections House is a good example – I know these aren’t pop music examples but they illustrate my points well). Rhyming can be done well, it is usually when it is appropriate and add meaning and poetic value. And simple song structures can be appropriate and utilized well, I personally enjoy this if the song is interestingly anecdotal. You see when these elements are put together poorly, as it is abundant in lazy songwriting or in profit driven songwriting, it becomes a disaster. It becomes the type of stuff you hear constantly on the radio. I think music should be driven by artistic interests and exploration, but artists have to eat and corporations need to make money and this is where artistic and corporate interests fight for dominance. I think that both should share equal space, and one shouldn’t ever dominate over the other for the sake of everyone involved. Win-win is always better than a win-lose situation when it comes to our societies in general.
I want pop music to be better, for the sake of our societies. The kind of art a community consumes says a lot about it. I believe that if a majority of our population is going to listen to this stuff then it should at least be better than it is now. I’m not saying that none of this music shouldn’t exist. Everything has its place and don’t over-do anything.
In closing here are some pop albums/singles & artists I like, which I think are the exception:
- Lily Allen – (First two albums, haven’t listened to Sheezus yet, haven’t go the time to sit down and actively listen to it in a meaningful way) She is freakin’ killer.
- La Roux – both albums, Elly Jackson rocks and she is an inspiration for me personally. She beat her anxiety, and came out the other end and offered us a killer album. In the unlikey even that she reads this, I would like to say: Well done, I love you and you’re my heroine.
- The Weekend – The Triology. I haven’t heard the new release so I can’t say anything about that yet.
- MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Haven’t given a listen to albums after that)
- Hurts – Happiness (Haven’t heard the albums the albums they released afterwards)
- Coldplay – All their albums. And yes, I consider Coldplay pop and it is not an insult.
- Chet Faker – Built in Glass.
- Glass Animals – Zaba
- Adele – Everything I have heard from her I thought it’s brilliant, I haven’t heard an album by her. I haven’t sat down and listen to entire Adele album but from what I have heard I trust her.
- Eminem – Just a pure display of talent I think, within the constraints of what hip-hop allows and as far as hip-hop can be creative.
- Gossip – I have heard three of their albums (Standing In the Way of Control, Music For Men and A Joyful Noise).
- 30 Seconds To Mars – Everything by them.
Feel free to add your own to the list.
Look there is a lot I’m leaving out, I could write a book about this with extensive arguments that are rigorously researched. But this is a blog post, I can’t spend as much time as I want on a point or an argument because of that. So goodbye!
Thanks for reading.