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The Decline of Popular Music

A teenager's insight on the state of the music industry.

OK. This issue has been bothering me for a long time. It's an issue that probably affects every single person I know, hell, probably most people in the world. I'm talking about the decline of music.

Lately I've realized that it's getting harder and harder to find decent music to listen to. Even though there is an abundance of rap, hip-hop and an atrocious techno/pop mixture flooding the radio waves, it seems that the presence of quality music is declining faster than LeBron James' hairline.

I know a lot of you are going to say, “Rap is music, too, man. It takes talent.” Sure, maybe some poetic talent, but only a minuscule number of rappers bring any thought to their flows. The majority of rap is about having sex with women (in much more graphic and demeaning terms), or it talks about how “gangsta” the rappers are, or it's about getting high. Talking about that kind of inane crap takes no talent, whatsoever. I mean, I've seen junior high kids make up raps about this stuff.

And to make matters worse, these stupid lyrics are played behind an electronic drum beat. It's not even played by actual people, or made by actual people. It's made by COMPUTERS. I mean, come on!

Now don't even get me started on pop music. It barely fits the definition of music. Where the did all the instruments go? What happened to actual people playing actual instruments? Synthesizers, once again, do not count as instruments.

And what happened to singers who could actually sing without the help of a computer? As far as I'm concerned, synthesizers and electronic drums drowned out by averaged vocals so auto-tuned they sound like Stephen Hawking's computer is NOT music.

I'm only 17. I obviously haven't personally experienced every era of music. But I was lucky. As a singer/songwriter, I have strong opinions, partially formed by the wide variety of genres and styles I was exposed to in my very musical family. I think I know what is music and what isn't.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not totally against rap and pop. If you take a look at my iPod, you'll find music ranging from Sinatra to Tupac. I'm pretty open to every type of music.

Now, I'm not trying to totally bash this new music, it just seems that the days of making music with actual instruments are fading. With computers dominating the music industry, people with almost no musical talent are pushing artists with actual musical skills out the door.

To be real music, here's the test: If the power goes out and you can still play and sing your songs as good or better than with the power on, you're making music. Is there much argument with that?

The fact that you have to search pretty hard to find some quality music is scary. Even though there are a few actual musicians who are popular, like Adele, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift, there are nowhere near as many bands or musicians around as there were even 10 or 20 years ago. To find some talent, you have to dive into the indie scene where people with musical talent find refuge from the almost corporate music world.

Maybe one day, real, quality music will take back the radios and the music industry. Or maybe it will fall into the dark abyss of shattered LPs, broken guitars and burnt sheet music. Only time will tell.

Tell me what you think in the comments section.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brad Kava (Editor) July 05, 2011 at 07:03 PM
What about things like Bon Iver, Broken Bells, Radiohead, even Coldplay? I think they are making music that is as good today as ever...
Ian Weckler July 05, 2011 at 07:12 PM
very true, but those bands aren't hitting top ten on itunes day after day, and most high school kids aren't putting them on their ipods which is kind of sad since those are some good bands
Daniel Wootan July 06, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Radiohead said (censored) to the mainstream; Broken Bells is great but doesn't get pushed that hard on the radio; and most other artists that don't overtly support the product placement/consumerism-driven model that corporate labels are in the industry to push (on behalf of MTV, Coca-Cola, etc.) are starting their own smaller labels with huge success. I know you aren't usually a fan of hip hop, but maybe checkout Rhymesayers Entertainment (my new favorite label). They get pushed off the radio in favor of brain dead mouthpieces like "Fitty Cent" because god forbid music make people think about real things: GRIEVES (my new favorite artist), Atmosphere, Sage Francis...and so many more.
Daniel Wootan July 06, 2011 at 12:28 AM
Brad, those are great examples of music being made todayu. But they are also all artists who have said (censored) to the mainstream labels in some way. And Ian you are so right about mainstream hip hop. The interests of major rap labels is to push consumerism, misogyny (why? I don't know), and an image that even the artists themselves destroy their lives trying to live up to. There is so much good hip hop that can't get played on the radio because god forbid people are made to think real thoughts. I recommend checking out anything from Rhymesayers Entertainment (grieves is my favorite at the moment). However, with your thoughts above I am sure you know of Atmosphere, and the rest of them anyways already.
Ian Weckler July 06, 2011 at 04:20 AM
I agree with you 100 percent. But those bands aren't what are in the top 10 on the charts day after day. They don't appeal to america's youth as much as they did 5-10 years ago
Daniel Wootan July 06, 2011 at 04:34 AM
You are both right: Brad, that those bands are making great music. And Ian that they have either been pushed out of the mainstream, or have pushed themselves away (Radiohead and others). As far the misogynistis/product placement nature of mainstream rap, collectives like Rhymesayers Entertainment have been pushed out of the mainstream (for having REAL thoughts in their lyrics) and still have huge followings.
Jacob Bourne (Editor) July 06, 2011 at 05:17 PM
I'm not sure it's fair to discount the very real musical talent of plenty of pop or hip-hop producers, just because they use synthesizers. True, there are stock beats out there, but producers still use keyboards, equipped with loads of different output sounds, to create their instrumentals. They are still playing the chord progressions and putting together a cohesive backdrop for a song. It's not your conventional drums-guitar-bass-keyboards band, but it takes a very musically-savvy person to understand how those elements work together, and to then recreate them on a keyboard. I know there's a lot of crap out there on the radio all the time, but to be fair, the Billboard Hot 100's top 10 right now includes the following people with serious vocal chops: Adele, Gaga, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and Bruno Mars. And the number one album this week is Jill Scott's latest. She's a neosoul heavyweight with well-deserved respect. Of course, for every Jill Scott, there's a Ke$ha. But, my point is, I don't think the situation is quite as dire as you make it out to be.
Ian Weckler July 08, 2011 at 04:28 AM
This situation may not seem that dire to most, but it seems to strike home with a lot of hard core musicians. I guess I'm just trying to say I want to see more people showcasing the talent of the artists themselves and not of their producers.
Rebecca Johnson July 10, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Music is music. Sorry guy who wrote this article, but your opinion sounds way too biased. Music is creating art with sound and making a melody. Music isn't specific and people don't need instruments to create music. This is the new age in which genre's of music is growing and enhancing, mostly using computers for sound. It isn't like they press a button, and bam! they get all the sound they want. It's more than just pushing a button or playing a tambourine. The point is, long before instruments, there were people singing without them; creating what we call 'music'. Yes, a few artists today are hidden by a lot of the computer technology, but it does not mean at all that it's not 'real' or that it's a bad thing. You make it sound like it should be against the law to create music. You as a musician should embrace other music. I don't know how a musician is a musician if they are going to complain about other creations, just because they don't like the sound. Admiration is a good quality in anyone. Also, I might add that Acapella groups do not use instruments, but only their vocals, does that mean they aren't real musicians?
Ted Holcomb August 05, 2011 at 12:11 AM
Benny Blanco, Dr. Luke, Claude Kelly, Max Martin (especially Max Martin) all have a tight grip on popular music. Between these four writers/producers, almost all top-40's hits are produced. Art is defined, by the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced." These people do not foster the creativity of the artists. They foster the money-making abilities of the artists. Creativity has not been present in the top 40 charts for years, at least not in America. So we cannot call modern American pop music art. It is merely an equation that results in record sales. These four people apply this time after time after time. And their record sales are enormous. But there is no creativity here. The act of singing is as much an act of creativity as acting. While there is a creative aspect to it, the true creativity comes from the writers, but to write variations on the same song over and over again is not creativity. What we have, instead, is merely corporatization of music. I embrace electronic music sometimes. I love the song "Sandstorm." I like Daft Punk. I appreciate techno. Hell, I even appreciate underground rap. Rock's my main choice; it fits my lifestyle more. But I cannot say that I appreciate synthetic pop music. There is no creativity anymore, only catchiness in these songs. And therefore I dare say that they are not art.
Carlos Rodriguez February 20, 2013 at 11:28 AM
I sought to disprove: synthesizers have been around for a while, if a band utilizes one it doesn't necessarily mean they're talentless. Look at bands like Depeche Mode who in their era that technology was barely developing and they stepped up ; they reshape the possibilities of electronic music. The thing with music now a days is that it can be easily produced and recycled by an artist with a sluggish tendency. Look at the song 'Friday' by Rebecca black, that is a 13 year old and due to her being ridiculed she received appraisal from Katy Perry. You can't argue originality, because all the sounds already exist and have been recycled. Artists don't go out and sample, they use what's at hand. Take away the soundboard, and the technicians in the back and how would it sound? Also don't use this to counter me in my argument about depeche mode, because if you could thrown those guys in an old factory theyll create music from banging pipes and rolling rocks. Ill like to point out a famous philosopher: Friedrich Nietzche, who stated the famous "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" which in today's society is known by a shitty pop song with no recognition of its originality. He also stated that the reason why some style of art begets recognition is because of the artists narcissistic behavior and dismay for not gaining recognition which leads them to become judges or train judges so they can put their own their so called 'art' in a higher pedestal, impeding what was once calledart
Ty Horn August 27, 2013 at 11:49 AM
You're right about popular music being in the decline, but good music does use synthesizers, keyboards, and electric guitars. Also, rap has almost always incorporated sampling instead of live instrumentations. This is not the issue. Lack of creativity is.
Ty Horn August 27, 2013 at 12:02 PM
If you want some rap that is original check out Kendrick Lamar. I recommend two of his albums; "Section.80" and "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City." Also, Odd Future is entertaining.

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