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.