In a just and fair world, there would be very little manufactured pop music like that of the endless procession of boy bands like Take That and pop idols like Taylor Swift, all regurgitating musical ideas which revolve around the same four chords played in the same progression. Rick Beato has a video entitled Why Boomers Hate Pop Music (start at 5.00 to miss the boring intro) and of course, he’s absolutely right, because when you’ve grown up on simpler music e.g. Beatles and the British Invasion (that era’s definition of boy bands), at least this was followed up by music becoming more thoughtful, complex and artistic — Procol Harum, Zep, King Crimson etc.
The problem with all the modern music is that it starts simple and stays that way, without any pretense towards greater sophistication. (With notable exceptions like Dream Theater and their ilk — who, by the way, are technical wizards and their music is complex but not very sophisticated.)
As I’ve said in earlier posts like this rant, I find myself drifting more and more towards Eurometal bands because while they too sound fairly alike after a while, at least they come up with interesting songs like Everybody Dies, Sancta Terra and the incredible No More Hollywood Endings. Just remember, all musical genres eventually sound repetitive — classical music works with the same instruments and orchestral setups just as much as metal bands perform their repertoire with the same five or six instruments. This is why the songs have to become more interesting — Rachmaninoff’s Air On A Theme by Paganini uses essentially the same instruments and musical format as Beethoven uses in his Piano Concerto No 4 G major, but they are different works altogether — something that cannot be said for most modern music, where last month’s chart-topper sounds exactly like this month’s, even though they are performed by completely different artists.
Yeah, I know that orchestral metal is really just a development of classical orchestral music, so it should come as no surprise that I would prefer orchestral metal to anything ever written, sung or performed by Ed Sheeran or James Blunt, just as I prefer Chopin to Gilbert & Sullivan.
And of course, a number of the orchestral metal performers are — quelle surprise! — classically trained (Amy Lee, Arjen Lucassen — who is today’s Donald Fagen — and Simone Simons, to name but three) and it shines through their music like a searchlight.
Go ahead and search for bands like Evanescence, Epica, Gentle Storm, Nightwish, Ayreon and… oh heck, just look up Noora Louhimo, Sharon van Adel, Tarja Turenen, Anneke van Giersbergen and Simone Simons, to name but a few.
Comparing their music to modern pop music is comparing Tulips from Amsterdam to Heart of Amsterdam.
And just to be absolutely clear: when it comes to vocal ability, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga together aren’t fit to wear Floor Jansen’s eye makeup.
Now go and listen to Ghost Love Score.
Your 5th paragraph is the key. Music is not being taught on a broad level as it was when I was a kid. I was born in 1955 and I remember learning very basic music stuff as early as 1st grade which laid the foundation for more learning as we progressed up the grades. By 3rd grade I was taking music lessons at public school on a trumpet and my 1 year younger brother was taking drums, my next younger sister was on clarinet and the next sis was on flute. Neighbor kids that went to the same school were taking lessons on a variety of instruments and they made all of us familiar with what they were doing, call it “joint learning by association”.
By learning the fundamentals of music at an early age and encouraged to go further by teachers and parents we were able to advance, or not, as our interests grew, or did not. All of this was mostly phased out of the schools to make room for more “progressive” ideas that started dragging things down. When crap “music” came out people with a strong music understanding were revolted by it but those with little to no knowledge and/or music experience were attracted to it.
FWIW, over the years I have made several attempts to understand crap music and I just don’t get it. In fact, I find it intolerable. A computerized foundation “beat” with a lot of screaming and yelling about gats, hos, crime, and other things that are normally associated with those horrendous places called ghettos. I am not an advanced musician but I know enough that that stuff is so far removed from the realm of music as to be laughable.
My mom and dad went to high school in the late 40’s. In a public high school of fewer than 400 students, the School fielded an Orchestra of musicians totaling 240. Only one full-time music teacher, but every teacher on the staff was expected to be competent in at least one instrument.
I went to a small Catholic high school (less than 90) in the early 70’s and we had a string quartet, a woodwind quartet, a piano quintet, a choir, a jazz trio, and “cheer” band for the basketball team. I was (and am) minimally talented in all things music, so after my voice changed and I got booted out of choir, I was selected as a backup piano/organ player. And that was only because the triangle player had a lock on that instrument and also because I owned a Fender Rhodes electric piano. I played Love is Blue by Paul Mauriat and Green Onions at every school recital for 4 years and CRUSHED IT.
Neither my parents high school nor mine have a music program anymore, but they both do have a full-time Diversity and Social Justice teacher.
“…revolve around the same four chords played in the same progression.” You could’ve condensed that down to two words: George Thorogood. Then again, four chords may be giving him too much credit.
Our host hates jazz, so here’s a cross for him to bear – Ravel meets Leonard Cohen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbeACrAnxFE&list=PLZojv1mYAJfjRIdfShaBXaqcJVKxYWAns&index=91
loved the early renaissance back in the 70s.
Wow, what a way to start my Saturday! That Nightwish video left me gobsmacked! You and I are from the same church, Kim. I’m a big fan of classical music–even opera–and you had me right here
“Procol Harum, Zep, King Crimson …”
And Gentle Giant, ELP, ELO, Uriah Heep, Genesis, Kansas, Jethro Tull, Wishbone Ash, The Alan Parsons Project, Yes, Styx, and the list goes on and on and on. I have not kept up with current music, though. Most of my ‘growing up music’ was on vinyl, though when CDs came out, I amassed quite a collection of classical music on those. Not being as musically trained as you are, I don’t know why this happened–or I didn’t until I read this–but I pretty much quit listening to new music in my mid-to-late thirties. Oh, my kids turn me to some good stuff from time to time, but I became very incurious.
Then I listened to that Nightwish you linked. It was reminiscent of Rennaissance to me, I mean Annie Haslam jumped immediately to my mind while listening to Floor, who I had never heard of. Clearly, there are bands out there today that would still hold my interest, I just have not discovered them.
Request, sir, for those of us from that age … would you consider a blog post highlighting current bands that folks with favorites lists like our should be aware of today? If there are more Nightwish type bands out there I want to know who they are!
And I leave you with an obscure, but great example of that musical era we grew up in.
Well, dammit, Kim. Thank you very much. It’s clear I’m not gonna get a damn thing done this morning that I had planned on doing. I’m on my fourth cup of coffee, and still binging on Nightwish videos.
Thank you very much. Dammit.
If you like Nightwish you might like Van Canto, Sabaton, or Unleash the Archers. Once you’ve listened to a few of those, YT’s algorithm will start suggesting similar.
+1 on Sabaton, being a vet and a military history junkie.
Sabaton is the best!
I learned of Nightwish through John Ringo and Sabaton through Alma Boykin.
Yep, lots of Sabaton fans in Baen’s Bar.
Just to throw a little gasoline on he fire, how’s ’bout Babymetal(Japanese heavy metal), the HU(Mongolian throat singing), and Sabaton(sp?)(not sure where to put them on the musical)…Ooops, somebody already mentioned them.
I discovered Nightwish when I found their Phantom of the Opera performance on you tube. There are diamonds out there like Floor, but they are rare.
I think what pop music suffers from is the process dynamic: first and foremost, there is a commercial filter through which only certain forms of music, more likely to generate revenue, will pass. The other crucial element are the two main streams that lead to that filter. On the one hand, there is the organic evolution of musicians and bands through the churning environment of downstream clubs and venues. It is through this sort of evolutionary method that true mutations resulting in pleasing surprises and new forms can come. The other path is a slightly more modern approach: having deconstructed to essential elements the components of commercial success, raw talent is farmed and curated through intentional acts of band creation, less as an artistic endeavor, and more as a revenue creation endeavor. Raw “talent” will be auditioned for specific fit to preordained roles to execute specific components, and slotted into the next bands thrown into the incubator pipeline.
If you’ve had kids in the last decade or so, you can witness this exact same dynamic unfold in children’s television. A pipeline of shows targeted to different age groups is created, populated by a farmed set of actors, with scripted migration of actors to the next age tiers of shows every 5 years or so until they age out of the system, with few making the transition to adult venues of stardom.
Not one thing you said is untrue or even disputable.
My pat phrase for posts such as this is “Free American citizens are allowed to have different tastes than you and I.”
“In a just and fair world” we would all have ready access to whatever musical genre we prefer. In modern America, that seems to mostly be the case, though you may have to go through a little bit more effort to find it.
“Pop” music is called that because it is “popular” with a large plurality of the general public. I’m okay with that. When I was growing up, rock-and-roll was known by my parent’s and grandparent’s generation as “the devils music”. (…and indeed, a lot of that music was a form of rebellion against that generational attitude.) Now that I am myself a senior, I find that my tastes in music are considered quaint and not “with it.”
I am not a fan of Taylor Swift, but if others are, who am I to complain. I find it ironic that Elvis and the Beatles have become elevator music right alongside of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.
Que sera sera. (…and by the way, I have always liked that song by Doris Day.)
A foreign exchange student, I started Flamenco in the 1950s.
Transitioned to Ten Years After doing GOING HOME ala the Woodstock documentary.
And BRIDGE OF SIGHS by Robin Trower.
Spersed with the Mitch Miller and Robert Wagner chorales.
Gospel, Eye-talians, Austrian, Portland Gaymen Choir and their full-blown cabaret… doesn’t matter.
And back to Flemenco.
Here is Lucas Imbiriba performing his adaptation of the Los Lobos theme from Desperado:
Through it all, I carry Brahms 118-2.
Here is Radu Lupu (headphones required):
Another band that John Ringo pointed me towards is Cruxshadows. Winterborn is a song I find playing more lately.
I would probably offend some Christians by adding FAUN performing WALPURGISNACH, so I will:
And any musical lists are incomplete without Flogging Molly.
Here is DRUNKEN LULLABIES:
Either/both are my idea of a pretty good time!
As someone who first heard the Beatle’s when my barracks-mate, who had just transferred in from Germany, played a few albums (remember those 33-1/3 things) at a station in Pakistan in ’63, they were interesting, but not my cup of tea. However, when Gary McFarland produced his “Soft Samba” album in ’64, and it started to be played by a few DJ’s in L.A. in ’65, I started to appreciate the music of Lennon and McCartney, that was now in a form that allowed for an interesting expansion of its breadth.
Guess who has Nightwish tickets next fall? ( assuming the Kung Flu restrictions don’t ruin it).
Important thing to remember about Nightwish is that they’ve had 3 leads. Tarja, Annete Olzon and the current and best Floor Jansen. Lotta content out there, and if you like Jansen, you might not care for the other two.
I also highly recommend Sabaton. All of their stuff. And if the tour comes close, go see them, great show.
And all live.
Four chord songs
Consider this a late Christmas present, Kim:
Ningen Isu has been playing since 1987. They have 21 albums. They had just started their first European tour when Covid shut everything down. I have no idea how I’d never heard of them, because they may be the best heavy metal band in existence.
Folks here have already listed some of the most common bands on my Spotify lists. I saw Sabaton on their Great War album tour with Hammerfall, and had hoped to see them last fall when they were going to be opening for Judas Priest on their 50th-anniversary tour, but the WuFlu put all that on hold. I have tickets for the rescheduled show this October, assuming TPTB are allowing concerts by that point, and the indians haven’t gone bankrupt (not a good time for casinos, and this show is at Foxwoods).
Fun trivia, Floor Jansen is married to Sabaton’s drummer.
I’ve also been listening to a lot of Blind Guardian (their current project is very orchestral) and Powerwolf.
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