Thursday Night Movie

Last week I ranted about the homogenization of cars, but I don’t want you to think that said homogenization is confined only to the automotive world.

Let me now turn my baleful gaze upon an old bête noire of mine, the poxy music industry, where this homogenization  has become economically critical. (I should say it’s become an “art form”, but “art” and “the music industry” are mutually-exclusive terms.)  It’s even worse than the auto industry, because at least the homo-cars are being driven by something other than pure sales appeal, i.e. fuel consumption efficiency.  Not so for the loathsome bastards who run the music business:  their homogenization is driven by naked profit-seeking — which is all fine and capitalistic, but then don’t try to dress it up as “art”, because it fucking well isn’t.  And they are just vultures — see here for just one heartbreaking example.

From Longtime Reader PeterB comes this excellent video, which explains why modern music sucks to People Of A Certain Age.  More to the point, however, is this:  beyond all the expressions like “timbral decline”, “harmonic compression” and so on, what becomes apparent is how music is being turned quite simply into the aural equivalent of Huxley’s soma:  something which delivers jolts of pleasure, but has no actual nutritional value whatsoever.

I know that manufactured pop stars — people promoted because of their looks rather than their musical talent — are not a recent phenomenon;  hell, that’s been going on since the 1950s.  (As an aside, the exquisite Cass Elliott would never have made it in today’s music world because overweight.) But at least the earlier pop idols could sing or play musical instruments, and record producers (grudgingly) allowed musicians some degree of latitude in the expression of their music — Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Lennon-McCartney and talents of that ilk were allowed to dictate what they sounded like.

No more. Now, Britney/Taylor/Justin are herded into the studio, given a lyric sheet and, having delivered the lines, are ushered out while post-production turns the synthesized noise into something that will be downloaded millions of times on Spotify.

It’s dreadful, it’s awful, and I am so glad that I am no longer a professional musician.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and listen to something which challenges my musical senses.  It may be a classical piece like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2, it may be King’s X’s Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, or it may even be something simple like Alan Parson’s Pyramid.

But whatever I listen to, it will last longer than two minutes, and it will create a mood rather than deliver a brief dopamine hit.  For that, I’d just watch the wonderfully-talented (and sexy) Grace Potter.  No compression, sampling or any of the usual tricks there, just unrefined talent and ability.


  1. I have about 2 dozen or more “artists” selected for my Pandora Account that I let shuffle, giving me an endless selection of Jazz from the 30’s to the 70’s – though I have to admit my fave album is “The Land Of Make Believe”, where the vocals by Esther Satterfield make me cry they ring so true.

  2. Gretchen Goes to Nebraska!!?!! Oh, yea.

    I knew there was a reason I liked reading your writing, Kim; and not that you’re just an evil bastard. One of the truly great records of the last 30 years or so. Underappreciated band.

    I have to tell you, King’s X is my “brush with greatness.” Years ago, a band came thru my local ‘burg, and the bass player/singer was tired and sick. I was singing in a local band, so I was “volunteered” to do a set with the act, then known as “Sneak Preview.” Had a ball.

    Yup. King’s X. Yes, I have been on stage with King’s X.

    Some years later, found a copy of Gretchen in a Christian book store, loved it, realized who I was listening to, and have bought just about all their stuff since. I actually like Dogman just as much as Gretchen, and that’s high praise. Unfortunately, they rarely tour anywhere near me anymore. Jerry Gaskill has had a couple of heart attacks. Dug’s KMX project rocked, with George Lynch on guitar. Ty’s done some killer solo work.

    But the three as King’s X still reign. GREAT band.

  3. My kids are finding the music from the 60’s and 70’s to be worth listening to.

    I swear I didn’t force their hand.

  4. I saw the video about why the music of today is crap, and it is spot on. I am also a former working musician. I can say that the music of the 70′ s was indeed the best, save for a portion of the modern throw back country and Western that is not the pop crap. Plus some of the Latin music that is just amazing. I love Bia Kriger, give her a listen.

    1. You had a decade where Steely Dan & Alan Parsons (to name only two bands) had regular radio airplay

  5. You might find some relief in the work of one Neil Finn. (One album title was One Nil.) he is resolutely opposed to a good deal of the current “best practices” in the music industry. His studio (Roundhead Studio in Auckland, NZ) is, to the best of my understanding, pure analog as far as is possible. It may amuse or delight you to watch the video series, which is on You Tube called the Infinity Sessions and was recorded live over the month of August last year. At the end, the last episode is four or five hours and portrays the recording of an album — Out of Silence — in its entirety, live in the studio. His former band is a little act more popular in Down Under than here, called Crowded House. He has just recently joined Fleetwood Mac. Paul McCartney once said — on tape — that he considered Finn the greatest living songwriter.

  6. I gave up on “popular music” in the mid-80s, when it became Madonna-fied. The rock of the mid to late 80s through the early 90s was acceptable; the Bon Jovis and Def Leppards and Guns N Roses’s got me through high school and my first, woefully misspent college days. But then, seemingly in the same week, Nirvana came along, as did “gangsta rap”, and the first iteration of “Bro Country” in the form of Garth Brooks. There was abso-frickin’-LUTELY nothing for me to listen to anymore. So I stuck with the “classic” and “oldies” stations. Unfortunately, the “classics” station in Minneapolis was obsessed with the Beatles and the Stones, and the “oldies” station seemed to be getting paid under the table to play as much Billy Joel and Elton John as they could. I didn’t like anything new and I was sick of the old stuff. That’s when I discovered talk radio in the form of Jason Lewis, who is now the member of Congress for the neighboring district. (Mine is the district that sent Michele Bachmann to DC; make of that what you will.) As I like to say to the young’uns: I didn’t get old, the music got suck-y.

    Paul Joseph Watson made most of the points in Thoughty-2’s video a few years earlier. I don’t have much time for InfoWars in general, nor Alex Jones in particular, but Watson is probably the only guy on InfoWars who isn’t totally deranged. (Language warning; prob’ly makes it NSFW, but it’s dead-on balls accurate.) (It’s an industry term.)

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