I’ve talked a lot about what music is, and what I think it should be, but what I haven’t talked about is what it will be. To figure this out we can study how music has trended over the years, starting with what I perceive to be the beginning of music in pop culture.
Music really started to gain popularity to the average consumer in the 20’s when music was created to be danced to. Before this there were ballets that only professionals could perform, and balls were often only thrown for royalty. Around this time about any American could go to a bar or club and hear some really kickin tunes, and they would dance. They would dance dirty, aggressively, with people they just met. All of the adults from times before found it appalling and outrageous.
This is how it all began. People wanted to move their body to music, not just listen to it in an audience. This evolved over time
In the 60’s, even a bit before that they started not only dancing raunchy, but also adding in raunchy words. Now people could not only move their bodies, but also sing along. Moving forward even further.
Now the music is literally about sex. The beat is electronically generated for an even heavier feel. This started turning into “grinding” and dirty dancing. Then in the 90’s something else came along.
Rap, hip-hop, non melodic music that was centered on the words with a simple beat to back it up came about. People didn’t necessarily dance to this music, more of a slow head nod, but they liked the stories told and the clever word play involved. Also in the 90’s
Right around the turn of the century there was a huge movement for boy bands and super-star female solo acts like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Again not about dancing, about the words, and relating to the stories told. These ideas weren’t new, but it is important to point out that for a time dancing was not the focus of music. However, the power of the dance came back with a bang.
Music that was almost exclusively computer generated, electronic, techno, whatever, started to become popular. This music was made only to be played in clubs for people to move their bodies too. In this specific example the song is called “One More Time” as in just one more time were going to go out and party, celebrate, “don’t stop the dancing.” From there it became more and more a part of popular music which brings us to our decade.
God damn look at how many views that video has. Music played on today’s dance floors is about one thing: partying. Having a good time. Drinking. Dancing. These are the themes that encompass music today. Just like back in the 20’s. It’s the same thing, different songs. So what is the future of the industry? More of the same. It’s been proven for almost a hundred years now that people like to dance to music and hear simple chords and heavy beats. The beats will get heavier; the themes will be more and more obvious to the listener. It makes sense, when people are out at night trying to have a good time, they want to hear music about having a good time. They have such a good time listening to these songs that when they get back, the next day they are stuck in their head with the memories of that night and they listen to the songs over and over.
My conclusion for the direction of pop music is that the problem isn’t the industry. The industry is simply meeting the demands of the consumers as it has been for a century. The problem is our culture is so focused on nightlife and going clubbin’ where people don’t like to have to think about music at all, thus removing the skill of active listening from the typical consumer.
How can you expect someone who listens to this kind of stuff all day to understand/relate to an entire symphony?
This song also conveniently transitions me into my next point: “sampling”
Notice the quotations. Did you recognize the chord progression/melodic theme from this song?
Do you now?
Did Pitbull steal this part from a-ha? Yes. Is it illegal? No. Here is why. This method in today’s industry is called sampling. Sampling is using an existing musical idea, and combining it with your own. If Pitbull had simply copy and pasted the tune from the a-ha recording, that would be illegal, but since he (his producer) replicated the notes with a synthesizer it isn’t. Sometimes the use of sampling is definitely questionable:
All Daft Punk did is add something on top of the song and time stretch it to a different key and tempo. The last example in my opinion is the most close to being illegal one. Unfortunately the way that copy writes go, as long as you credit the ones you take the samples from and you make the song different in some way it is perfectly legal.
I probably sound like I am against sampling, this isn’t entirely true. I do encourage creativity and originality in the music industry, but sometimes samples can be used effectively to help with this process. I just find it a cheap but effective way to get the creative process moving. Let’s move back to the Pitbull song again to transition into my next point. Collaborations.
It seems to sell a song these days you have to put as many big names in front of it as you can.
I get using Rihanna’s voice for a relatable melody (plus sex appeal), but what purpose does Kid Cudi serve in this song? Why doesn’t Kanye just do another verse? Some will argue that it adds to the song and the different vocal styles are used to tell different parts of the story. I really don’t think so. This is one of the few Kanye West song’s I enjoy (because of dat brass), but I don’t see the point in having Kid Cudi around. The song would have been just as good without him. He was along for the ride so that Cudi fans would listen to the song as well as Kanye fans, more money. This fad is creeping into the type of music I listen to.
Featured in this song is Jesse from the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza (I posted a song of theirs in an earlier post if you are interested). Why? Did they need his unique vocal style to add to the song? Again I don’t think so, but people know TDTE and not so much A Body Divided. I am all for getting your name out there, but I feel like collaborations should be a total team effort not just a guest appearance. Here is an album that is Slash collaborating with different artists from around the industry on each song.
The reason these are good collaborations is that slash plays in the style of the guest artists adding his own incredible talent to the mix. Each song has its own character, because he played off of the artist and they played off of him a bit too. This is what collaborating should do. In the future I expect more and more collaborations for less and less of a reason, hopefully every now and then the artists will combine to create something truly unique.
This concludes part 1 of my post about the path music is taking, due to the stupid length of it already. Part 2 will be the stunning conclusion, about how metal came to be what it is today and where it is heading.