Kind of obvious that Lady Gaga is sort of becoming the Madonna of the current century. Hey, nothing wrong with that – the kids today should have their own eccentric, wild pop star icons. I appreciate her creativity, though just not into her music. I guess that “Paparazzi” song was pretty catchy, but I think I preferred Greyson Chance’s talent show version of it on youtube. So what if her new “Born This Way” song is basically a modern version of Madonna’s “Express Yourself”. Maybe it’s a conscious homage to a song that inspired Gaga. Or maybe it’s a calculated copy by her corporate record executive handlers. Or both. Hey, that Lady Antebellum song is “Eye in the Sky” by Alan Parsons Project, intentional or not. Music is a lot like DNA… it mutates over time, incorporating various styles and influences in its evolution. It can’t be helped, it’s the nature of it. I mean, even our National Anthem’s melody is, ironically, an old British drinking song (maybe that explains why Christina sung it like a drunken sailor at the Superbowl).
This all doesn’t mean that something new and original can’t emerge from homages to our influences or cutting and pasting old styles over a new beat (which is probably an old beat sped up and looped). And it surely doesn’t mean that new artists should stop trying new things even though “back in my day, music was good and you could understand it, not like the junk these kids listen to today…grumble, grumble… HEY – GET OFF MY LAWN!!!” Face it, we’re getting old (referring to people in my age group, mid 30′s to mid 40′s, who seem to have mostly frozen their music tastes during the 80′s or early 90′s). We’re turning into our parents, who most likely couldn’t get into “our music”. The brain gets tired of creating new synaptic connections at some point, plus the perspective of someone born into a world without dual cassette boomboxes and with guitars that are usually plugged into a videogame will naturally be different. It’s okay, that’s the way it works, the whole nostalgia thing. Somehow, I don’t even remember being as fond of Journey or Duran Duran back in the day, as I am now. I was trying to tell my Dad about an episode of VH-1 Classic Albums on Duran Duran’s “Rio”, and he couldn’t get past the idea of it being a “classic album”… well, okay, maybe he’s right but you know what I’m sayin’. What really scares me is the music soundtrack in stores, like my local QuickChek, seem to be set to the 80’s now – even obscure New Wave stuff I’ve never heard. I’ve somehow become the target demographic for convenience stores. That can’t be good.
If you keep an open mind, though, you’ll find there’s plenty great music being produced, by new artists and older artists you may have liked in their “prime”. Some artists actually get better with time, and just because they are older and out of the spotlight, doesn’t negate their achievements or make them less listenable. The music store is pretty much INFINITE at this point (as long as iTunes can plug in another server, oh, every couple seconds I guess), so no reason to fear that the Bieber is somehow taking up precious shelf space at the record store instead of your favorite artist. This is “zero sum” thinking (no, that’s not the latest NIN album): because someone wins, someone else must lose. Let the teen girls have their Bieber, it’s really going to be okay. It’s actually always been this way. Hey, I didn’t even watch the Grammys this year, and haven’t for the past couple years. Glad Arcade Fire won – seems like a band that I’d be into, but for some reason they don’t excite me. No big deal, their fans should be proud of them. For me, it’s just not a competition. It’s music. Find something that you like, and enjoy it. On a purely business level, yeah, the music industry can be intensely competitive in many aspects. But I’m talking more about the cultural level, the listener-side experience. All of these awards and focusing on commercial success can lead us away from the true spirit of music, of bringing people together to share an emotion, or celebrate a moment in time, or experience something intensely personal. Or just rock out and party. Or mellow out and relax. Or get yo’ funk on. Or…uh… whatever country fans do? Whether you’re into music that’s just feel-good pointless pop or something extremely challenging and boundary-pushing – it’s alright. There’s room in the Universe for it all.
- Nigel Matrix