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Thread: Is pop music circa 2013 really that terrible?

  1. #1

    Is pop music circa 2013 really that terrible?

    So, I've been listening to Weird Al's Mandatory Fun. I found his take on CSN, The Pixies, the Foo Fighters and Cat Stevens to be accessible and well done. What I'm wondering about is the rest of the songs. Aside from Royals by Lorde, I actually hadn't even heard most of them. So, I decided to spend some time acquainting myself with the pop music of today.

    And, it's terrible! I mean, it has been bad for a few years now. But, really? Blurred Lines? Try watching that video with your eyes closed and tell me if you still enjoy it.

    I'm not saying that good music isn't being made. I'm well aware of that it's being made, but simply not marketed to the masses. What I'm wondering is how anybody can even enjoy listening to Robin Thicke, Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Kesha, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, etc. It's just terrible.
    Last edited by Reverend Jones; 07-27-2014 at 03:13 AM. Reason: word crimes

  2. #2
    I actually had similar thoughts while listening to Mandatory Fun. While the parodies and the videos are great, the source material itself is just... well, to me it's genuinely bad! Oy.

  3. #3
    I actually think "Call Me Maybe" works better in a polka medley than as a single. I mean, the song only has a couple of verses anyway.

    I'm also finding that I like Al's vocal performances a lot more than the originals. Is it because so many songs are autotuned now that these singers can't be bothered to try when they sing?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Reverend Jones View Post
    I'm wondering is how anybody can even enjoy listening to Robin Thicke, Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Kesha, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, etc. It's just terrible.
    Pop music has always been terrible. There are exceptions, of course, even now (I suppose), but by and large it's complete garbage.
    And when the moment is right, I'm gonna fly a kite.

  5. #5
    Look, gbk, it was one year ago when I came here on this thread and said "yeah, well, it does suck more these days than ever before". Okay, gbk and Reverend Jones? Are we clear now?

  6. #6
    gbk, how can you say that? What about this #1 hit from 1977?

    Video URL: http://www.youtube.com/v/SSw6CL-vLHg


  7. #7
    In all seriousness, yes, looking at the 'Billboard Hot 100 number one singles' throughout the years, it's clear that most hits are rather forgettable, banal, and shallow. That said, I still hold that 2013 was especially bad.

    OTOH, at least half of the #1 hits for the three consecutive years of 1966, 1967, and 1968 were (exceptionally) good.

  8. #8
    Eh, maybe less than half.... But the really good ones make up for it.

    Whereas 2013 has no redeeming qualities--just a cultural vacuum.
    Last edited by Reverend Jones; 07-27-2014 at 03:50 PM.

  9. #9
    ALL GLORY TO THE CONTEST WINNER

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    What up snobbery.

  10. #10
    I tend to agree. It's OK not to like stuff, but music isn't bad just because it's accessible.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Baconfish View Post
    What up snobbery.
    Salutations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tracer View Post
    I tend to agree. It's OK not to like stuff, but music isn't bad just because it's accessible.
    Most consumers don't do a whole lot more than follow established trends. On the other hand, I argue that breaking new ground is necessary for art to be 'good' art. Of course, in 2014 it's pretty hard to break new ground (although technology helps), and it is harder still to do so while sounding "good" to brains trained to accept tonal European music as the gold standard. There is a lot of (good!) art on the market today that goes under the banner of "music", but really isn't of artistic merit by the standards of European music. An obvious example is rap--it's easy to see that an Eminem track is probably decent poetry, but makes for a bad song or symphony (although one might broaden the definition of 'symphony', or consider things other than melody, such as texture).

    Going back in time: the wave of `60's Rock&Roll British bands--most importantly (in my mind), The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Who--represent such a revolutionary force for boundless creativity, sheer energy, and excellent musical pedigree (e.g., in art school, Pete Townshend had access to a roomate's extensive collection of American R&B records), that later generations of musicians--on average--seem to have a laughably hard time surpassing them AND becoming popular (in my mind).

    [Rant: Between the choice of churning out pale imitations of `60's masterpieces, and turning away an audience by getting too experimental, the concentration of annoying, banal music produced in the `80s isn't really surprising. Of course, with the arrival of Hip-Hop, it's become clear that the mainstream has finally become tired of this drivel once and for all, although it's too bad that the preferred solution offered by Hip Hop meant that Rock&Roll had to be mostly abandoned in the mainstream. Yes, the `90s Alternative Rock movement would have begged to differ, but where has this ultimately led? Acts like The Black Keys, Nirvana, The Strokes, and Elliot Smith and many others have varying levels of fandom, but their mainstream popularity relative to pop artists like Will.I.Am, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Kayne, and Daft Punk is small. Admittedly, this makes some sense, since it is Hip Hop that overthrew the "old guard" of Rock&Roll, and that Rock&Roll is now akin to the likes of Engelbert Humperdinck, even if it was Rock&Roll bands like The Doors that were overthrowing old farts like Engelbert Humperdinck in the `60s. So one might simply argue that I'm only bitter that the movement began by my heroes has survived long enough to become the villain.]

    While I won't argue the implication (in the universe of music) that [accessible] => [bad], I will claim that if music is engineered to be accessible from the get-go, rather than fermented in the creative soul of the artist, then, yeah, I won't be surprised if it is bad. Also, there are a lot of 'disturbing' long-term trends in the music industry, like increased repetitiveness and excessive use of Autotune and sampling. I would venture to say that pop artists have become more adept at mixing, but practice their physical instruments less (if they have physical instruments to begin with).

    By the way, the first time I listened to my favorite album (Quadrophenia), it sounded mostly like noise. If a composition is so densely packed with ideas, then yes, it will be less accessible (not to mention longer!).

    That's not to say that some accessible music isn't great. A lot of my favorite music from the `60s are simple folk ditties, and I don't even need to mention the success (in popularity AND musicality) of the Beatles, the original boy band. But alas, most of the original songs parodied by Weird Al on Mandatory Fun don't have many redeeming qualities.

    Some of my favorite Weird Al songs are his style parodies, which give his band a chance to show their musical craft. If Weird Al's band (which he has been with since the beginning) weren't as musically talented as they are, I imagine he'd be largely unknown today. I love 'Everything You Know is Wrong', 'Don't Download This Song', and 'The Night Santa Went Crazy' because they are funny, but also tasteful and 'musical' (by my own personal definition of the word).

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    Last edited by Reverend Jones; 08-10-2014 at 12:45 AM.

  12. #12
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    The sound of 4 guy with drums and guitars has gotten pretty stale after 70 years. It's hard to create anything brand spanking new in that context that's not going to sound derivative because of the limitations of the genre and that amount of work that already exists.

    Autotune is a thing that is lessening it it's deliberate usage of an effect; it proliferated a few years ago because it was something brand new that people found unusual and now it's settling into standard levels, just like how scratching was on everything years ago when it was the new big thing, and slapback echo on pretty much every single record ever recorded in the 1950s.

    There has been vapid stuff designed purely for people to dance to since the dawn of time without any heartfelt passion shoved into it, you just tend to not remember most of it or you don't think of it as such because it was more important to when you were younger. This includes absolutely every single song that The Beatles recorded prior to "Help".

  13. #13
    For sure, there needs to be more than "4 guy with drums and guitars" in the next `60's-style revolution. But is there really any reason to believe that we'll ever see such a revolution?

    I wonder: why did the members of Cream, The Yardbirds, the Jeff Beck Group, The Who, as well as the Americans like Jimi Hendrix and Paul Simon all flourish in `60's London? Was there something about the place, (be it cultural, social, or economic) which was particularly conducive for young men to pick up the guitar and pour out their souls? Or is it just that the artists (and their fans) knew the work was new and revolutionary, and thus acted accordingly? I suppose the emergence of rap from troubled black neighborhoods is analogous in a lot of ways... it just doesn't resonate with me.

    I suppose that classical music (the genre, not the period) faced the same crisis as has Rock&Roll: mainstream, Modern-era classical composers after Mahler have been so revolutionary (atonal) that they are all but unlistenable to someone who hasn't already accepted such a radical departure from the the assumptions of Western music since Medieval (or even Greek?) times (I don't even know the names of the composers, since the listening experience was completely forgettable). Is the choice to either "jump the shark" (so to speak), or to recycle? Composers of film scores like John Williams and and Hans Zimmer have made a career out of taking taking the work of others (Gustov Holst's "The Planets", for example) and giving music that is no more revolutionary than that of Mahler or Wagner new life by combining it with film.

    Sometime in the late `60's and continuing to the present day, I'd argue that there began a different, parallel revolution in music; I'm talking about the genesis of electronic music and sound. Pink Floyd is a band well known for exploiting it, and Pete Townshend loves his synthesizers, but the full potential of electronic music to both replace and improve upon the physical guitar hasn't really been achieved (to my knowledge, but then again, it's hard to know with music being so fragmented these days). There seems to be something about learning to play a physical instrument that prevents one from being lazy and simply screwing around with effects and calling it a day. Also, there's also the issue of how to give an energetic, live performance without having a transformative physical artifact like a guitar as a crucible. Who would see a Hendrix concert without a guitar?

    There has been vapid stuff designed purely for people to dance to since the dawn of time without any heartfelt passion shoved into it, you just tend to not remember most of it or you don't think of it as such because it was more important to when you were younger. This includes absolutely every single song that The Beatles recorded prior to "Help".
    I know, you right. Plus, even I listened to (and enjoyed!) "The Sign". Iif people want to dance to even less musical stuff, I don't see a problem. Sometimes I feel tricked by getting angry at the music I hear at the gym. I realize that the writer of the song probably cared even less about it being original/good than I do, and that it will probably be forgotten in a few years anyway (having served its purpose), and I stop.
    Last edited by Reverend Jones; 08-10-2014 at 05:54 PM.

  14. #14
    Hmm--this thread makes the third time I've posted about something not being as good as it used to be. Something must be wrong with me.

  15. #15
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    I don't necessarily agree with the screwing around bit. Loads of electronic artists know how to play keys and using samplers well certainly takes a lot of skill.

    That said, pretty much every punk band until it turned into American hardcore stuff could barely play their instruments and there's some fantastic stuff there.

  16. #16
    Don't have time to (in a nice way) dissect your posts, Reverend, but here are a few thoughts:

    -Electronic music is just as valid an art form as any other style. You mention that the full potential for electronic music to replace "real" instruments hasn't been achieved, but it has. I can plug my guitar into the computer instead of an amp and get great sounds. I'm talking great to the point where you would not be able to tell the difference if you took the blindfold test. I could replace the guitar entirely and you probably wouldn't know. The same goes for most other instruments. But that isn't the point. Electronic music doesn't replace traditional instruments, it takes music in new directions entirely. I bet I could lay tons of electronic music on you that you would like, and I'm not even an expert in the genre.

    -The important thing, I think, is to understand why you don't like the music. For example, I heard Royals for the first time today (I don't listen to the radio). I thought it was good. But I can pinpoint exactly why I like it. Conversely I usually know exactly why I don't like a particular song.

    -Disagree mightly with your statement that the physical instrument is important. Musical instruments are an illusion - music really comes from the imagination of the musician. Obviously Hendrix without a guitar would suck, but Hendrix was a terrible singer so IMO it's a faulty argument. What about a vocal group? Their music wouldn't have any less value.

    -Rap is good. It's essentially pop music. Rock is also pop music. Eminem is good and has many good songs (despite not being able to sing).

    It seems that you're into 60's/70's rock, Reverend, which is good. It's great that you are into music and have some passion about it. I like a lot of that stuff (Hendrix/Clapton/Zep/Beatles) but I also dislike some (Pink Floyd/The Who) and am only superficially aware of much of it (Zappa/King Crimson) and need to catch up on my listening. The important thing here is to try to be as educated a listener as possible, instead of proclaiming that X is good and Y is bad. When you listen, try to figure out what the artistic intent was. If you don't like a tune, listen again. Maybe you missed something. Try to abandon preconceived notions of what kinds of music you like and what you dislike. It's OK not to like a tune, but try to judge a song entirely on it's esthetic and artistic merits.

    The sound of 4 guy with drums and guitars has gotten pretty stale after 70 years.
    Totally disagree. The sound of 4 guys with drums and guitars is limited only by the musicianship and creativity of said 4 guys.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  17. #17
    ALL GLORY TO THE CONTEST WINNER

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    Yeah I worded that badly. I'm basically talking about dadrock.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Tracer View Post
    it takes music in new directions entirely.
    Maybe that's where my dilemma lies. I've so strongly been sold on one interpretation of "music" that I can't give it up. For me, music is about a.) having sheer energy while remaining genuine and soulful and b.) still being somewhat perfectionist or conservative (i.e., don't stray too far from the tonal and compositional aspects of Western music that made the act of listening a physiologically pleasing activity in the first place) in your compositions. For me, a rock track (or album) is a symphony that has been compressed into the span of several minutes, but with unhinged levels of emotion.

    I didn't mean to say that rap is bad, but simply different. And FWIW, a lot of Eminem is pretty poignant, in the same way that gospel, folk, and traditional blues gets me. On a certain level, Eminem resonates with me the say way Simon and Garfunkel do. It would be funny to see somebody try to combine the two. Maybe add electronic aspects as well. In fact, a lot of new music that resonates with me is the stuff that combines traditional Rock&Roll, but adds in other elements without screwing up what made things work in the first place. New Wave, especially The Police is a conservative example of this, but also bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sublime, vis. funk and ska, respectively.

    I would love to listen to more electronic music--the less physical instruments the better (I only wondered if it could be achieved, not whether or not it would be desirable). I would just require that the end product is a cohesive composition that could rival a symphony in its ability to be sonically diverse, but never without this added complexity in some way contributing to the ultimate effect.

    I didn't used to like The Who-at all, really. To me, they are one of the most interesting bands of all, because almost everything I like about them hides beneath a superficial layer of "rawness" that might detract the modern listener. But when I watch their Isle of Wight concert, there is such a distinct and genuine vibe coming from the band that just seems incredibly powerful and genuine.

    Try to abandon preconceived notions of what kinds of music you like and what you dislike. It's OK not to like a tune, but try to judge a song entirely on it's esthetic and artistic merits.
    It's really hard to judge any art on its artistic merits, unless it's overly repetitive and derivative. I probably mentioned that a lot of what is popular on the radio is like this--I don't think this is controversial! In a lot of ways, I think pop stars care more about fame than art.
    Last edited by Reverend Jones; 08-11-2014 at 01:16 AM.

  19. #19
    BTW, I don't rate Royals as all that bad--it's certainly original. It's just not ambitious enough for me to care. After all, the singer was a minor when she recorded it.

    It also is pretty tonal. That said, it shares a certain damning flaw that seems to plague a lot of radio hits these days--specifically, this sort of droning, lifeless quality. I can't quite put a finger on it, but a lot of production on modern tracks just seems nauseatingly detached and off to me. This is understandable, since artists are trying new things (I've read somewhere that simply modifying the time signature to something unconventional is enough to make the listener begin to feel physically ill, or at least uncomfortable).

    For a prime example of this phenomenon, try listening to to this. In a certain way, the chorus is rather haunting and enticing, but something about the way it is produced just makes it feel disquieting and infuriating.
    Last edited by Reverend Jones; 08-11-2014 at 01:37 AM.

  20. #20
    Blaming it on the production might even be too generous--it's like they are deliberately missing beats, attacking the important notes too late, so that the whole thing sounds sloppy and discombobulated, and I end up wanting to punch the radio.
    Last edited by Reverend Jones; 08-11-2014 at 03:59 AM.

  21. #21
    And then there's this; the production on this one is probably even more annoying than Wall of Sound.

  22. #22
    ALL GLORY TO THE CONTEST WINNER

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reverend Jones View Post
    It's just not ambitious enough for me to care.

  23. #23
    I don't know, don't worry about it. I can't even stand to re-read my posts--they're mostly garbage.

    The minute I try to justify what I've written, I write five more unjustifiable things. It's hard to have this kind of discussion online without looking like a pretentious douche.

  24. #24
    Whoops, looks like I wrote this thread because in 2014 I didn't know that indie rock existed. Lol

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