22 September 2009


I recently had occasion to listen to the latest album from “Jay-z.” I listened to the whole thing although it was sheer torture. I was searching for the slightest bit of musical content, which eluded me, since the entire album consisted of boring raps over the same constant beats. There’s a tiny portion of music in the background either sung by a girl or chorus, and to my mind they’re the ones who should get the credit, not the dude that is simply talking over it. This is not music. It may be poetry, but bad poetry. What is incomprehensible is how anyone can occupy their time listening to this stuff and others in the genre that all sound the same, but every time I go on a subway there is a large number of young people with annoying loud headphones bobbing to this junk. I presume the lyrics must be of some import, although through most of pop music history lyrics were often jumbled and incomprehensible. The music was what mattered. Now it isn’t even there, or sampled and electronically re-processed sound.

The sad thing is that this crap has been around an awfully long time. There hasn’t been much originality since the 1980s. Change and creativity used to be far more rapid before then. It is tragically ironic that we live in an era when musical reproduction and fidelity has reached new heights of pristine quality, but there isn’t much worth listening to that isn’t more than a few years old. This is not to say there is not anything good or new out there; there is actually a lot going on in different genres but they don’t get the air play or promotion.

No wonder CD sales are down. It isn’t just Internet downloading. There just isn’t that much worth buying or listening to out there. How ironic that we have the best technology ever for reproducing music and just about the worst product available ever. It is great for things like classical music or jazz, but the sales are miniscule in the US (whereas in Europe they are still significant along with some good pop music). Here is some good dance-trance stuff, but otherwise you’re left with ciassic rock retreads. There is also a large pop market, but the songs all sound like retreads of older songs scrambled through a computer to come out slightly different, but still formulaic. There is very little originality.

The other explanation of decline is that everything has fallen into more and more niche markets with smaller audiences. While this may be true, it leaves no room for something coming along sweeping much of the youth, as has been the case many times over in the past. Hopefully something “new” will come along as a trend sooner or later; my guess is that it would come out of Latin music. There is still nothing better than a good melodic line along with a catchy rhythm to get people’s interest.

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