Someone’s spoilin’ for a fight so may as well get right to it..
I know of no quicker way for a person (of any age) to transform into the classic old-man stereotype of bent-over, hard-of hearing pensioner shuffling along with ‘Gandalf staff’ walking stick and flowing grey beard then for that person to label all modern music as ‘rubbish’.
And that my friends, is exactly what I propose to do.
Attacks on the insipid nature of modern music have been gathering steam since the early nineties, making this post possibly one of my most unoriginal yet. So why have I suddenly decided to join the arm-waving chorus of disapproval?
With our recent purchase of a new car came the roundtable negotiation of who would control the music when the whole family was travelling together. Foolishly I did a deal with the devil (my eight year old daughter) and got talked into agreeing she could rule the airwaves and exert the power of veto when it came to music choices whenever we would be Mazda CX-5-ing together.
At the time of consenting to this totally ridiculous idea, I now believe I must have been distracted with adjusting the car’s a/c dials on the new ‘instrument cluster panel’ (dashboard) or some such other activity that barred me from being fully present in the moment. For I have now been forced to come to terms with the full terrible extent of the ear-aching and downright irritating consequences my rash choice in the face of baby-faced innocence has opened the door to.
Like a spider spinning a silky web to ensnare its prey, she began innocently enough by asking what radio station played ‘today’s music’. Matching her innocence with my own poor imitation, I dutifully replied – ‘Nova 106.9FM’. Three weeks later, after being forced to endure the limp-wristed, woeful excuses for songs this station foists upon it’s apparently satisfied listeners, I have truly rued the day when I first volunteered this information and in the process signed myself up to an unrelenting three weeks of waterboarding torture for the ears.
Like a parent holding their nose while disposing of a dirty nappy, I’m going to see if I can bring myself to describe why the music I’ve been literally strapped down and forced to listen to these past twenty-one days is by its very nature so damn lame and gimpy (the legal team looking over my shoulder as I compose this post (ok, wife) has advised me to add the caveat ‘to my ears’ to (A) avoid personal opinion being misconstrued as slander and (B) because incredibly these type of songs are alleged to be loved by millions).
Time first though to name names and expose some of the incriminating evidence, so we know exactly who and what’s been causing all the stink. As a type of payback for the grief I’ve endured over the last weeks, I made my daughter carry a notepad and pen whenever we were out riding together and write down the name of the song and artist displayed on the car’s digital radio monitor. She carried out this task with a mixture of evil-grinning enthusiasm and paralegal secretary efficiency to come up with this compendium of the bland, soulless sludge that’s been oozing out of our car speakers these past days and nights –
- OCEAN by Martin Garrix & Khalid
- ALL THE STARS by Kendrick Lamar & Sza
- FRIENDS by Marshmello & Anne-Marie
- HOLD ON WE’RE GOING HOME by Drake
- I SAID HI by Amy Shark
- SAY SOMETHING by Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapelton
- YOU DESERVE BETTER by James Arthur
- LOVE LIES by Khalid & Normani
- THE SWEET ESCAPE by Gwen Stefani & Akon
- CHASING FIRE by Lauv
- HANDS TO MYSELF by Selena Gomez
- NERVOUS by Shaun Mendez
- YOUNGBLOOD by 5 Seconds of Summer
- BETTER NOW by Post Malone
- NEW RULES bu Dua Lipa
- THUNDER by Imagine Dragons
- SOLO by Clean Bandit
- ALL RISE by Blue
- THE MIDDLE by Zedd & Maren Morris
- ONE KISS by Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa
- SHOTGUN by George Ezra
- CALL OUT MY NAME by The Weeknd
- HEALING HANDS by Conrad Sewell
- BROOKLYN IN THE SUMMER by Aloe Blacc
- FIRE by Peking Duk
- NEVER BE THE SAME by Camila Cabello
- HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE? by Calvin Harris
- GIRLS LIKE YOU by Maroon 5
- MIRRORS by Justin Timberlake
- THIS IS ME by Keala Settle
Everyone of these tunes, with the possible exception of just three – THE MIDDLE by Zedd & Maren Morris, NERVOUS by Shaun Mendez and THIS IS ME by Keala Settle (from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN sountrack) – could all be described as heaving masses of over-processed grey pudding that scream ‘bland’ with every beat of their tinny $99 drum machines. Play lists like this one are the sort of ‘easy listening’, inoffensive, generic pop puffery that’s heard everywhere these days – from gyms and clothing stores to supermarkets, shopping centres and bars (insufferable muck of this ilk was even seeping through the speakers on-board an otherwise pleasant rivercruise I took on the Gold Coast last week).
The majority of these personality-stripped corporate-style jingles sung by pretty faces sound indistinguishable from one another and as if they were composed in someone’s bedroom using a four-track recorder featuring just a drum machine and a synthesizer capable of playing three different octave sounds.
This barely alive, chilled and homogenized gunk, the majority of which most of the time doesn’t even feature recognisable choruses, reminds me of easy-to-digest soup served up to seniors who deserve better in retirement homes. Apparently young people love it. I know my daughter does. For the rest of us, it’s assuredly what used to be known as ‘elevator music’ or wallpaper for the ears. Drivel like this doesn’t get me tapping my fingertips on top of the leather steering wheel but rather has me gritting my teeth and planning to eject myself from the car at the next set of traffic lights.
So how did it come to this? Back in my day (there, I’ve just uttered the classic old-timer’s phrase so we can all relax now knowing that’s the selective-memory-territory we’re now in) songs had dash, songs had power and songs were alive with a hundred levels of instrumentation. Seems these days ‘stripped back’ musicianship is all the rage so there’s not an electric guitar, violin, flute or even goddamn cowbell within a 100 miles of the recording studios this garble was produced in.
Please don’t mistake my expressed misgivings as an attack on electronic music per se. Hell, I was head-over-heels loving the first wave of electronic music in the late 70’s from the likes of Gary Numan and Kraftwerk along with the genesis of hip hop and new wave at the beginning of the 80’s back when it was unpopular to do so.
No, what I’m dropping weights from a great height on (or, as they say, ‘Takin’ down to Chinatown’) is the assembly line, ultra-diluted and personality-stripped tunes that have somehow become de rigueur for today’s millennials. These are songs your average perennial (like me) is likely to find almost totally unbearable given the inevitable comparison to the anthem-like, near epic productions of previous decades that trump today’s drivel a hundred times over when it comes to memorable and catchy tunes that might stick in your head for, oh, let’s say longer than 30 seconds after you’ve just listened to them.
Some commentators would contend pop-music has been on the steady downward slope since it’s peak in the 1960’s, wheras I would pinpoint the noticeable decline from probably more around the mid-nineties onward.
It seems I’ve been left with little choice but to put on my old teacher’s hat and, as condescending as this may sound, showcase what real commercial music used to sound like.
First, three songs from the eighties –
1.SAFETY DANCE by Men Without Hats (This remix version 2010) BE INSPIRED HERE
2. OWNER OF A LONELY HEART by Yes (This remix version 2005) BE INSPIRED HERE
3. JUMP by Van Halen BE INSPIRED HERE
Next, three songs from the nineties –
4. THUNDERSTRUCK by AC/DC COME ALIVE HERE
5. TWO PRINCES by The Spin Doctors COME ALIVE HERE
6. DAMN I WISH I WAS YOUR LOVER by Sophie B. Hawkins COME ALIVE HERE
Hear the difference?
All six of those songs literally throb with personality.
They’re alive! (not numbing).
None of them sound like they’re the offspring of some corporate focus group determined to produce music that’s safe and ultra-easily digestible — like baby food.
Could my own 70’s/80’s/90’s acknowledged music bias be possibly blinding me to the genius on show that’s in fact surrounding me in a creative pincer movement of mythological proportions on today’s airwaves?
It could be.
I just don’t think it is.
But just in case I’m wrong, tune in next week for the rebuttal.
Ps. Though they’ve been delivered with all the finesse and precision of a baby giraffe taking its first steps, I’m afraid the unrepentant, all-out attacks on the iGeneration are not done with just yet. Has anyone heard of ‘millennial pink’? It’s been said if ever a colour summed up a generation this was it. Millennial pink has been described as a dusty, marshmallow-soft, slightly confused apricot shade of salmon-pink. Apparently this hilariously named hue came into vogue following the release of the movie THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (which was painted in the colour).
‘Essential wording’ said no one ever. Make it stop! Please?
(Actually, keep it going if you like. These loopy new names for interior-decorator inspired colour shades are a gi-normous barrel of laughs to play around with, I reckon).
Pss. That atomic wedgie pummeling of millennial’s taste in music was pretty ferocious so time to ease down with something more ‘Brady’. We’re in the market to buy a new house. A few weekends recently have been spent impersonating people of means and wealth while attending ‘Open House’ inspections in and around the Centenary suburbs. Our deadline to buy is another three and a half years away – when our daughter begins High school – so we’re in no rush.
A blip appeared on my radar screen this week then when I heard news from Los Angeles that the home used to film exterior shots for an old tv show favourite of mine from the 1970’s, THE BRADY BUNCH (1969 – 1974), was going up for sale.
The asking price is $1.9 million. That’s about $1.2 million outside of our budget so unfortunately I’ll be sitting this one out. The average price of homes in Studio City (the name of the suburb the house is in) is apparently around the $1.3 million mark. The added $600 000 is the pricetag of the prestige that will come with owning a piece of popular culture history.
If they threw in some of Alice’s ‘ol pork chops and apple sauce I’d reckon that was a real bargain!