Thursday, March 3, 2011

death of music

Recently something pretty drastic has happened to me -- I can't enjoy the mindlessness of popular music. The place it had in my head has died. This has caused me to reflect on it's life, and what caused it to decay so quickly.

Indeed, the life of my enjoyment of popular music was short, lasting only about five years. When I was young, I didn't buy cds or listen to the radio outside of it serving as my alarm clock in the morning. The notion of popular music was not approved by my parents, both Peabody Institute educated with a library of knowledge on how to appreciate more complex and sophisticated music. Their idea of how best to plant the seeds of their music was the same method that china uses to get people to buy into their government (sorry for the china reference, but it's still in me), namely obfuscate the outside influences and hope whatever is inside the walls is absorbed and embraced. Not that I have anything against the strategy, although it did make assimilation into normal society a rockier road. That's probably for the better though, I've never felt that doing what was popular was for me.

That is, until around the time when I was able to drive a car. I was about 19 at this point. This allowed me to escape the social norms of the house, and one of the results was being able to find out what music was able to survive in urban America financially. That is of course indicated by what is on radio stations.

This logically led me to conclude that their popularity indicated their superiority. This is not hard to conclude. Indeed, if some kind of music was good, it must have been marketed to the radio stations. After all, radio stations are trying to make money, and to make money they need to be listened to, and the best music would get the most number of listeners, therefore warranting air time. Thus, the best music was on the radio stations. Unfortunately, this logic is flawed in that the radio stations aren't playing the best music, just the safest music. That is to say, the music which is proven to appeal to the lowest common denominator by virtue of a top 100 list, which is arranged by number of requests each song has accumulated. Of course, any song on the list had been played on the radio station in the first place, so there's no possibility of a write-in. So the top 100 list is like choosing the sport you'd play in gym class. Some will choose volleyball, some will choose the official sport of satanism (water polo). But in the end, you're choosing something on the list. Obviously this isn't the most shocking development, and I knew this all along, and everyone else listening to the radio knows this, but it was easy to overlook the flaws because some of what was on the radio station, admittedly, sounded good.

Jazz listening slowly crept into the rotation later on, around the ages of 21-22. I moved to China, which didn't really effect my listening to music except for making it much more accessible. You could download music from Google's front page. Or Baidu's front page.

And then about a week ago, I was listening to katy perry being played on the radio station for the billionth time, and wondered why I was putting up with it. Not only in the sense that it sounded very bad, and it did. But the fact that the same exact song had been played about 20 minutes beforehand on the same radio station was like the radio station telling me I'm an idiot. Out of spite, I started listening to public radio and a waltz was playing. And it was something you actually had to think about. No more overanalyzing why that idiot rhymed "firework" with "colors burst". That doesn't fucking rhyme, by the way. Nor does it with "what you're worth". Dammit. Instead I was listening to professional musicians who'd spent a lifetime perfecting their instrument working together to play a piece of music which flowed on it's own, each aspect contributing something unique and appreciable, something you could either really think about a lot, or just relax to without thinking at all. Now I'm fully aware that music like this is definitely for me, and that while there will definitely be a song in the popular music realm that I will like from time to time, it's definitely not for me.

Various other things which contributed to the death of popular music:

- The Black eyed peas at the super bowl
- Fergie's terribly botched facelift
- Fergie's addition to the black eyed peas
- Mystikal spending 10 years in jail
- Kesha's birth
- Jay-z's opening to "umbrella"
- DJ tall kathy's utter lack of talent
- Guests on maury doing the "lean with it, rock with it" dance when discovering they are not the father
- Young dro's name
- Baby Sham's verse in "We could take it outside" from the Busta Rhymes album "when disaster strikes" (There's a reason you've never heard who this is, please never listen to this)

I'll probably think of others later

1 comment:

Garrett said...

Yea, I really only listened to popular music for a span of ~3 years (15-18 or so). I'm glad I found In Flames - they really opened up a new world to me. I'm still discovering awesome bands that are close to their style. Yay melodic metal.

Oh, if you enjoy any instrumental stuff, you should really listen to Animals As Leaders.