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Study on "The evolution of popular music: USA 1960–2010"

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[URL="http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/5/150081"]This is a long read[/URL] but pretty interesting...an attempt to quantify changes in popular music. The authors identify musical “revolutions” at 1964, 1983, and 1991. But if you go backwards, rock music kicked in around 1954, swing around 1935, jazz in the mid-20s, and ragtime at the turn of the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century. Circa 1890 saw the revolutions of American musical theater, Tin Pan Alley, and music playback technology (the first jukebox, Columbia Records first catalog of cylinder recordings for jukeboxes, phonograph-based recording). So there’s an intervallic pattern starting in 1890: approx. 10 years - 20 years- 10 years – 20 years – 10 years – 20 years - 10 years to bring us to 1991. This is an interesting variation on generations traditionally being thought of as 20 year intervals. If this is a pattern and not just coincidence, we’re overdue for the next revolution.

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The prohibition era is what made Jazz big. One of the History channels have a documentary about the Mafia vs the KKK and the music parallels those historic events of those years exactly. If you know basic music history and know what was going on in political history it answers most of the reasons why different musical types seemed to spring up out of nowhere.

 

Back in the 20's the KKK pushed for prohibition and got it passed. The reasons are many but much was race driven under the guise of religion.

In the north, the industry simply went underground. Most of the clubs were run by either the Jewish or Italian Mafia. Blacks found the perfect venue for their jazz music. Jazz became equated to being the rock music of its day because it was loud, provocative and only played in illegal venues.

 

Big bands carried on with this Jazz and attempted to sanitize it after prohibition ended. They were successful by historic records but you wouldn't know it by what many of those racially integrated bands faced. Many of those bands couldn't perform in half the clubs in the country, especially in the south where the kkk was still a huge controlling force. They didn't even have to have black players, it was the music that identified the people who played it as being Godless. In the 50's it carried on. You simply had smaller groups trying to do make the same big sounds of the 40'swhich led to the Bee Bop vocals. Its actually a takeoff on groups like the Andrew sisters but there was even more blues and jazz elements added to the point where you really couldn't tell whether a band was black or white. Elvis, Holly all those guys had all kinds of issues playing gigs. On into the 60's you had the new prohibition of drugs and rebellion.

 

Music seems to make its biggest jumps during these clashes between generations or races. When someone is put down there's another going to rise up and sing about it.

 

From the 70's on, you could invent your own reasons for musical changes. There have been some seismic things that have happened and some new strains of music have developed. You had the Disco thing, the Punk, The Metal, The Rap, House, Euro and a number of others but the main thing that's missing now is the impact of the media.

 

Radio was a major force in music which drove the popular music. That industry has been replaced by the internet and the power to drive specific music genres is either gone or has been diluted. Instead of stations being the big camp fire that draws people into hear the best bands, you have all these smaller clicks people gather round and the music barely evolves at all. People who used to listen to the radio were also up on social and political events of the day because those stations would also have the daily news mixed in with the music. Today if you ask a kid who the Vice President is you'd likely find 9 out of 10 don't even know.

 

Music has been severed by from the political events of the day and has gone underground to a good part. It may be a sleeping volcano or it may have just climbed into an open grave. Only time will tell.

 

I do know this. When I was a teen, my parents music sounded corny to kids my age I wouldn't be caught dead playing much of it to my friends because it just wasn't happening and it was really uncool. Today you have kids playing music going back to their parents and grand parents eras.

 

That's cool in one way because it ties families together. In other ways it shows musical stagnation on unprecedented levels. .

 

The new music is simply collections of previous genres mixed together. Very little of it breaks new ground nor does it reflect what's actually going on in the world. People can pick and choose what they want to hear but the tribal aspect of the music is nearly dead. I don't know what's ahead. You do see the vultures swooping in when there are big events that are occurring around the world but its overly obvious they are simply cashing in not elevating the situation to inspire people to find new ways of fixing their social problems. Older bands did allot of that too but many did offer good music worth buying in the process.

 

I don't know what the Me generation has to offer others as far as music or anything else. Good music comes from giving, not taking. Being self centered is at opposite extremes to what music is about and unless something changes the attitudes of the kids, they may very well be listening to their great, great grand parents music and never understand what that generation was trying to tell them in the first place.

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I haven't read the article (yet), but my take has always been that these revolutions are always about a mix of both cultural and technological changes. In the 50s, the technological change was the advent of the electric guitar. In the 60s is was television and the LP. In the 80s it was synthesizers, computers and MTV.

 

The new revolutions are already here. It's just a matter of artists figuring out how to use them. My guess is the next Beatles will be whoever figures out how to take our cultural and technological changes that have created things like Facebook, "selfees", Karaoke, smartphones and apps and put it all together into a musical art form. I suspect the 'next big thing' might be a band who puts on a performance where everyone in the audience somehow participates via their phones and tablets. Where the only way to really experience it is to be there live (or virtually so) since recorded music doesn't seem to have much economic future at this point.

 

I'm too old to figure it all out, myself. It makes my head spin just trying to post an image in this forum. But for the next generation of youthful energy, talent and creativity---the future belongs to them.

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Sometimes I wonder if it isn't about time for a folk revolution, like we had in the 60s. When groups like Peter, Paul and Mary and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs all had top hits on the pop charts.

 

Looking back on things, there is a bunch of stuff that I think really hurts music today. Most revolves around the money. The LP and CD are dying, so it is harder to make money off of recorded sales. That leads to making sure that if a company spent money on someone, you needed to hedge your bet they would be successful. So formula music - what makes a hit record - and make your song sound like that. Suddenly everything starts to sound the same. Then we want our music to be heard above the next guys, so we compress the living daylights out of it to where it actually becomes hard to listen to for any period of time. And oh yes, lets not forget how it has to be perfect, so everyone gets autotuned, but now your live shows become lip-sync repeats night after night.

 

The Gibson Brothers have a song out called "They called it music". In the chorus is the lines that sum up whats wrong with a lot of music today.

 

"They called it music, in the church house, in the fields. It was honest, it was simple, and it helped the hard times heal. It was music, sang it deep down in the mines. In dark and lonesome prison cells and behind battle lines. They called it music."

 

Think about the songs of the past that were hits, regardless of genre. Glenn Miller and In the Mood. S&G Bridge over trouble water. Today pop music doesn't say anything, so its not front and center but instead is relegated to the backgrounds of our lives. Music today is not honest. Its not simple. It doesn't help heal. When we get that type of music, I think you will see music succeed again.

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Think about the songs of the past that were hits, regardless of genre. Glenn Miller and In the Mood. S&G Bridge over trouble water. Today pop music doesn't say anything, so its not front and center but instead is relegated to the backgrounds of our lives. Music today is not honest. Its not simple. It doesn't help heal. When we get that type of music, I think you will see music succeed again.

 

Hmmmm.....honestly, I see the 60s decade and a bit beyond as being more an anomaly than anything else. Most hits of the past weren't really about much, if you think about it. The 1930s was a decade of great strife. Great Depression, war in Europe, racial tensions in the US---and what did the great songwriters of the era write about? A lot of love songs, mostly. Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, Rodgers & Hart --- they could have written about anything, but for the most part we got stuff like "I Got Rhythm" and "I'm A Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande". Classic tunes for sure, but hardly anything probably being sung much in the dark and lonesome coal mines.

 

And you know what else I've noticed? The reason why it's pretty easy to guess which decade almost any song was recorded? Because those guys were just trying to write hits that sounded a lot like other current hits and the arrangers and producers of the era made all the records sound an awful lot like each other in the pursuit of radio play and Broadway shows and bits in movies and hit singles. It wasn't just coincidence or for artistic reasons that virtually every pop record made in the 1940s sounds like the Andrews Singers are singing backup.

 

And Glenn Miller? I love Glenn Miller, but he was derided in his day by many for being a watered-down pop version of swing music. No "soul", or whatever term they used back then. Oh yeah, and the 40s and 50s? Hmmm...the era of Pennsylvania 6-5000, Marzie Dotes and How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? Yeah...fun little pop tunes in their own way, but not really feeling the "heal" there, ya know? Unless mindless diversion was the goal.

 

Not to harsh on your post. I get what you're saying---I'm just saying that I think that the key to music is about connecting with people and there are a lot of ways to do it and each generation has their own way of doing it. I'm not really bothered by the idea that I might not like whatever it is that comes next. In fact, that might be a good thing.

 

You may be right that its time for a folk revolution and that might be a cool thing for its own reasons, but going backwards and being ''retro" isn't what is going to move the art of music forwards. It never has been, anyway.

Edited by Vito Corleone

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Seems like human nature is that when something plentiful, inexpensive and easy to acquire, it becomes valued less. If technologically produced music gets to the point that anyone can make it ( loops, synthesized background washes - whatever these are called) and people are saturated with it, seems like it will loose favor. I would think that music made by people's hands and voices wold come back in vogue.

 

I read a short interview with Roger Linn a few decades back when the Linn Drum came out. He was asked something about it putting drummers out of work. He likened the computerized drum to the camera. He said photography took away the portrait work from the painters. But as a result the painters became more abstract. He predicted that the same thing would happen with drummers as a result. I don't think it did happen. But maybe it still may one day.

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Sometimes I wonder if it isn't about time for a folk revolution' date=' like we had in the 60s. When groups like Peter, Paul and Mary and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs all had top hits on the pop charts.[/quote']

 

FWIW, acoustic guitar sales are hotter than electric guitars right now. You may be on to something.

 

 

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That read is pretty deep and it gets more involved with musical notes and frequencies to determine changes. As the article says its limited by the data it has access to. Though interesting I think it misses out on lyrical content which is just as important as the music.

 

Several years ago I collected the top 100 lyrics from 1940 on and went about studying why those songs became hits. There were many songs I didn't recognize by the lyrics only which was actually good because I wanted to judge them from their poetry and meaning. My conclusion was a good 90% of those lyrics were pretty nonsensical and having very little literary value.

 

Many could have been written by grade school children which is revealing in itself. Lyrics mix with music and reveal emotions and many of those emotions are basic. I believe why many of them became and remained hits is because they make people feel young. This is akin to the fountain of youth for many. I also saw a big change in lyrics in the latter years to the point where some lyrics were quite heady and works of poetic art unto themselves.

 

These didn't always make them financial successes given the fact they were still a small percentage of the total, but I do believe the artists who incorporated better poetry became leaders in the business on many more levels. Many or most of the songs with lame lyrics wound up being short lived or one hit wonders. This makes me believe its a matter of education. Those with a better education not only write better lyrics but also apply that education to the business they are in and survive its volatile changes that seemed to occur every decade or so.

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Looks like some grad students have had a lot of fun applying just about every statistical data-analysis technique they could find and cludged together a "study" that is totally incomprehensible to anyone not versed in all those specific techniques.

 

I have a simple rule - if I'm reading an article or study that is full of technical jargon, stats, references, numbers/graphs/footnotes, and so on, and if I say to myself, "would I notice if all the numbers were multiplied by ten? would I know whether some technique used was used appropriately? could I tell, in short, if half of the charts were just made up??" If the answer to any of these, or similar questions, is "no" then I can tell that I'm in no position to judge the validity of the article or study, and I resolve to not let it influence me in the slightest.

 

I've had a lot of statistical training, had college courses in this sort of thing applied to other topics, have a History degree, did graduate work in statistical "policy analysis". All the "soft" sciences - sociology, history, anthropology, and so on, want so bad to have the convincing power that the hard sciences have. So all the emphasis on data analysis, quantification, statistics, linguistic analysis, and so on. They never achieve it, but man do they churn out the articles and studies, all fundamentally flawed IMHO. I'd rather hear intelligent, perceptive people just talk about impressions, opinions, and anecdotes any day.

 

nat whilk ii

 

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FWIW, acoustic guitar sales are hotter than electric guitars right now. You may be on to something.

 

 

I figured this was what was starting when bands like Mumford and Sons started to get really popular.

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The Gibson Brothers have a song out called "They called it music". In the chorus is the lines that sum up whats wrong with a lot of music today.

 

"They called it music, in the church house, in the fields. It was honest, it was simple, and it helped the hard times heal. It was music, sang it deep down in the mines. In dark and lonesome prison cells and behind battle lines. They called it music."

 

 

Before the age of audio recording and playback, music was often more personal. You sang it yourself, maybe played a bit, or listened to someone in the family or a friend who did. You heard it at church, in the fields, and at dances, fairs and get-togethers. It was practiced by the people, with less professional involvement, or at least less exposure to the work of professional musicans on the part of the average person.

 

In some ways, I think that there's a lot to be said for that. I don't expect us to return fully to that era - there's way too much in the way of mass communication for that to happen - but it is possible that we could enter an era where personal participation and involvement with music are once again valued and appreciated at least as highly as professionally generated music is. You don't need to impress the world with your playing to find incredible enjoyment in playing music personally. :)

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I think that the key to music is about connecting with people and there are a lot of ways to do it and each generation has their own way of doing it. I'm not really bothered by the idea that I might not like whatever it is that comes next. In fact, that might be a good thing.

 

As long as it conveys emotion and reaches people, I couldn't agree more. :)

 

You may be right that its time for a folk revolution and that might be a cool thing for its own reasons, but going backwards and being ''retro" isn't what is going to move the art of music forwards. It never has been, anyway.

 

True, but often the next big thing somehow draws upon and builds on that which came before it. Fusion was a marriage of jazz and rock. Rock was nothing more than a marriage of country and blues. Country was influenced by Irish and British folk music, etc. etc. Maybe the "folk revival" will bear only passing musical resemblence to the folk music days of the 50s and early 60s, but share the same general love for acoustic instruments and "real", unprocessed / unquantized music and honest performances. :idk:

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As long as it conveys emotion and reaches people, I couldn't agree more. :)

 

True. Problem is different generations and cultures don't seem to get why the new stuff is able to reach some other people. Parents in the 50s didn't believe their kids when they said that "noise" they were playing in their bedrooms was meaningful to them. Rock fans in the 80s laughed at the idea that anyone took rap seriously or considered it "music".

 

 

True, but often the next big thing somehow draws upon and builds on that which came before it. Fusion was a marriage of jazz and rock. Rock was nothing more than a marriage of country and blues. Country was influenced by Irish and British folk music, etc. etc. Maybe the "folk revival" will bear only passing musical resemblence to the folk music days of the 50s and early 60s, but share the same general love for acoustic instruments and "real", unprocessed / unquantized music and honest performances. :idk:

 

Good point.

 

 

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Rock fans in the 80s laughed at the idea that anyone took rap seriously or considered it "music".

 

 

At least until Aerosmith collaborated with Run DMC for their cover of "Walk This Way," and then the Beastie Boys came out with their "License to Ill" album. Then all the rockers/metalheads started changing their perceptions about rap music...

 

 

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I think the problem with today isn't that it "sucks" per se - that will always be a subjective judgment. But the problem is, is that since the 21st century arrived, there has been no new real forms of music. There have been a bunch of sub-genres, but largely music in the 2010s is not that much different than in the 2000s -- whereas the '90s genres sounded different from the '80s, the '80s sounded considerably different than the '70s, and so on.

 

The other problem is, no one is really *creating* music. Everyone's RE-CREATING. Write a new song and no one will listen to it. But do a quirky cover of a Beyonce song, or the "Super Mario Bros" theme, and everyone will eat that up. And it's not just music, but other forms of art as well. Make a sculpture, no matter how good, and no one will think anything of it. But make a Lego re-creation of a "Game Of Thrones" scene and everyone thinks it's the most awesome thing in the world.

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I figured this was what was starting when bands like Mumford and Sons started to get really popular.

 

Ironically, the brand new Mumford & Sons album is unabashedly electric modern rock...

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Unless I missed it, I haven't seen anyone mention harmonic movement. It seems to have faded from view (actually the aural version of "view") as far as mass popular music is concerned. I did a quick Wikipedia of the top 100 1940's hits as mentioned in an earlier post. The ones I'm familiar with had varying levels of harmonic sophistication - chord changes - harmonic movement. The music that reaches my ears (I don't go out of my way to listen to current pop music) often has only 2 or 3 chords. I believe that young musicians who are self taught these days are often unaware of even the concept of harmonic movement - unless they are learning to play jazz standards maybe.

 

The 1940's music I (currently) listen to somewhat regularly is mostly Louis Jordan (and his Tympani 5) and Ellington/Strayhorn. Harmonic movement is king in that era. Enough time has passed that I think harmonic movement in mass popular music would be revolutionary.

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The other problem is' date=' no one is really *creating* music. Everyone's RE-CREATING. Write a new song and no one will listen to it. But do a quirky cover of a Beyonce song, or the "Super Mario Bros" theme, and everyone will eat that up. And it's not just music, but other forms of art as well. [/quote']

 

Good point, look how many movies are "franchises" as opposed to new material. Basically, something like "The Avengers" simply "shuffles the deck" but the cards are the same. Same with synths, same with guitars. Speaking from personal experience, the new Gibson model years do indeed introduce a variety of improvements, but they aren't the same revolutionary change the Les Paul was to the guitars that came before it.

 

And sometimes it seems you don't even have to shuffle the deck! Didn't Hulu just pay a bunch of money for all the Seinfeld episodes? I wonder how people watching those will be watching them for the umpteenth time as opposed to having never seen Seinfeld and wanting to check it out.

 

It is possible to "shuffle the deck" and create something new; I'd put reggae in that category. But as you said, the music from 2010 draws from the same material as that from 2000. Even dance music, which has been notorious for mutating and evolving into different sub-genres, seems fairly status...dubstep may be hot (or at least it was), but even that was recycled.

 

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I think pop music is definitely in a stagnant period. I compare it to the post WWII era of about 1946-1954 which was also quite stagnant and stale with most of the pop hits either being very generic, rather dated sounding, or both. Which probably helped lead to the explosion of rock n roll a few years later.

 

I'm hopeful there will be a new explosion just around the corner. And again, I'll be fine if I personally don't like it. But I do want to hear SOMETHING new....

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I think the problem with today isn't that it "sucks" per se - that will always be a subjective judgment. But the problem is, is that since the 21st century arrived, there has been no new real forms of music. There have been a bunch of sub-genres, but largely music in the 2010s is not that much different than in the 2000s -- whereas the '90s genres sounded different from the '80s, the '80s sounded considerably different than the '70s, and so on.

 

y

 

A lot of change occurred over the twentieth century and it accelerated during the second half. From the fifties thru the nineties every ten years seemed like a different world stylistically and technologically. Maybe we've hit a plateau. Where are the new forms of music? Could it be that there are not going to be any? If not then so be it, but it doesn't mean that music has to suck. The fundamentals of non-sucky music always stays the same regardless of style and form don't they?

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I think pop music is definitely in a stagnant period.

 

Well it depends on what you consider pop. For me personally top 40 type music is about the worst it's ever been in my life time. I grew up on pop music but I really don't like a lot of what is considered pop music today.

 

But there is whole lot of good stuff out there. I think alternative rock is in a resurgence period right now and compares favorably to the nineties when it was at it's peak.

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Well it depends on what you consider pop. For me personally top 40 type music is about the worst it's ever been in my life time. I grew up on pop music but I really don't like a lot of what is considered pop music today.

 

But couldn't that just be an age thing on your part? MOST people grow out of pop music after a certain age and don't like the new stuff anymore. That's nothing new.

But there is whole lot of good stuff out there. I think alternative rock is in a resurgence period right now and compares favorably to the nineties when it was at it's peak.

 

Same thing. Most new alternative rock sounds dated to me. Does it compare favorable to the 90s to you because so much of it isn't much different than it was back then?

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But couldn't that just be an age thing on your part? MOST people grow out of pop music after a certain age and don't like the new stuff anymore. That's nothing new.

 

I don't think it's an age thing although I could be wrong. I have a pretty broad definition for pop music and don't think I'll ever grow out of it. I still like a lot of it and I still have the same passion and excitement for the stuff I like.

 

Same thing. Most new alternative rock sounds dated to me. Does it compare favorable to the 90s to you because so much of it isn't much different than it was back then?

 

The stuff I'm hearing sounds pretty different than the nineties stuff. When I said compares to I meant quality wise not stylistically.

A lot of it reminds me more of eighties new wave music, not like the nineties grunge stuff.

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MOST people grow out of pop music after a certain age and don't like the new stuff anymore. That's nothing new.

 

 

 

I really like "Young the Giant", "Big Data", "Wild Cub", "Bleachers", "Fitz and the Tantrums", "Bastille", Death cab for Cutie", "Modest Mouse" and the new "Mumford and Sons" to name just a few.

 

And I still get pumped and turn up the radio just like when I was a teenager when I hear these new bands.

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The stuff I'm hearing sounds pretty different than the nineties stuff. When I said compares to I meant quality wise not stylistically.

A lot of it reminds me more of eighties new wave music, not like the nineties grunge stuff.

 

And that's a big part of the problem. Back in the '80s, new wave was artists taking risks, venturing out into new territory. Love or hate it, it was a new frontier. When I hear the cheap hipster stuff that's a lame imitation of '80s music, it's been done, it's NOT a new frontier, it's not something new.

 

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I really like "Young the Giant", "Big Data", "Wild Cub", "Bleachers", "Fitz and the Tantrums", "Bastille", Death cab for Cutie", "Modest Mouse" and the new "Mumford and Sons" to name just a few.

 

And I still get pumped and turn up the radio just like when I was a teenager when I hear these new bands.

 

Yeah, those bands aren't really pop. (And some have been around since the 90s) So I'm not surprised at all that an older guy would gravitate towards them rather than pop, which is geared towards teens. As it always has been.

 

And there's nothing wrong with that of course. Just saying that if a 40 or 50 something doesn't find much in modern pop music that makes them want to turn up the radio, I'm not sure that that is saying anything bad about modern pop music. That's pretty much been how its worked forever.

 

 

 

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And that's a big part of the problem. Back in the '80s, new wave was artists taking risks, venturing out into new territory. Love or hate it, it was a new frontier. When I hear the cheap hipster stuff that's a lame imitation of '80s music, it's been done, it's NOT a new frontier, it's not something new.

 

I don't see it as a problem and I don't see it as cheap either. And most of it's different enough that I don't see it as an imitation. Influenced by maybe, but who cares. If it's good music that's all that really matters isn't it? Whether it's a new frontier or not.

Edited by Folder

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Yeah, those bands aren't really pop. (And some have been around since the 90s) So I'm not surprised at all that an older guy would gravitate towards them rather than pop, which is geared towards teens. As it always has been.

 

And there's nothing wrong with that of course. Just saying that if a 40 or 50 something doesn't find much in modern pop music that makes them want to turn up the radio, I'm not sure that that is saying anything bad about modern pop music. That's pretty much been how its worked forever.

 

 

 

Well my definition of pop is pretty broad and I certainly don't think pop music is necessarily geared towards teens. To me pop music is music that has basic verse, chorus, verse type structure. To me those bands would be pop/rock bands. But I mean we have artists that are in their sixties and seventies still writing pop music. Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan are still recording. Will they get played on top forty radio? Not likely. I tend to gravitate towards music that I like regardless of whether it's geared towards teens or twenties or thirties or forties or whatever. I don't think about that kind of stuff when I turn on the radio.

 

One of my favorite songs of the year was Cool Kids by Echosmith. I guess you could argue Cool Kids is geared towards teens but so what, it's a great song with a catchy melody and an good groove. I've been listening to pop music since I was a kid in grammar school in the early seventies and still do but IMHO in recent years the quality of TOP 40 has declined. Does my age have something to do with my opinion? Maybe so but I also think that a lot of great music is being recorded today as well. Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, and Robin Thicke all had songs I liked last year. And all of them had qualities that I've always liked in pop music.

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Just saying that if a 40 or 50 something doesn't find much in modern pop music that makes them want to turn up the radio, I'm not sure that that is saying anything bad about modern pop music. That's pretty much been how its worked forever.

 

 

 

I don't agree with this. Maybe for the casual listening masses but not necessarily for music fans.

 

When I was kid in the early seventies my grandfather who was already in his seventies liked Paul McCartney. I distinctly remember watching James Paul McCartney (TV special) with him on television when it first aired. I barely knew who Paul McCartney was but my grandfather wanted to watch it so I watched it with him and loved it. He and my grandmother loved music. We used to watch Lawrence Welk religiously. They also use to listen to country and jazz and my grandmother would listen to WQXI and Z93 which were top 40 stations in the seventies.

Edited by Folder

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I don't see it as a problem and I don't see it as cheap either. And most of it's different enough that I don't see it as an imitation. Influenced by maybe, but who cares. If it's good music that's all that really matters isn't it? Whether it's a new frontier or not.

 

"Influenced by" really isn't a problem. Nothing in the world is completely new. Most 80s New Wave stuff had a HUGE 60s pop influence. What was Blondie doing beyond taking The Shirelles in a new direction, for example.

 

But it DOES have to go somewhere new and connect to people on those grounds. If the main connection is to older people who dig the influence, then that's not going to move the art forward. Blondie worked because the kids dug the new direction, not because older fans dug the influence.

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Well my definition of pop is pretty broad and I certainly don't think pop music is necessarily geared towards teens. To me pop music is music that has basic verse, chorus, verse type structure. To me those bands would be pop/rock bands. But I mean we have artists that are in their sixties and seventies still writing pop music. Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan are still recording. Will they get played on top forty radio? Not likely. I tend to gravitate towards music that I like regardless of whether it's geared towards teens or twenties or thirties or forties or whatever. I don't think about that kind of stuff when I turn on the radio.

 

Definitions can vary but to me "pop" music has to be broadly popular. If you're trying to write a pop song but it's not hitting the charts, then maybe it isn't pop. At least not today.

 

. Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, and Robin Thicke all had songs I liked last year. And all of them had qualities that I've always liked in pop music.

 

Yeah, that's pretty much my point. Every older musician I know likes those songs. Why? Because the "qualities" are the dated retro vibe they all have. "Get Lucky" was a Chic rip off. Williams and Thicke lost a suit because they ripped off Marvin Gaye too hard.

 

You forgot to mention the "Uptown Funk" song everyone loves because it's a rip off of The Time. Every older musician seems to like that one too. Cool songs all. I love 'em and play them all in my cover band. But they aren't the future of pop music anymore than "Crocodile Rock" or "Rockin Pnuemonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" was where pop music was headed in 1972.

 

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I don't agree with this. Maybe for the casual listening masses but not necessarily for music fans.

 

 

The exceptions aren't the rule. The state of pop music moving forward is going to be about how it moves the casual listening masses, not the music fans.

 

The amount of revisionist history I hear from musicians amazes me, however. Any of us of grew up in the 60s and 70s knows that the cliché of the parent yelling at the kids to "turn down that noise!" was a cliché because it was true. We all lived through that. Yet everytime I bring it up, somebody always tries to tell me that "MY dad was different! He LOVED my Zeppelin albums. Told me how much they sounded like the blues music he grew up listening to!"

 

Even IF those stories were true, you should certainly be able to understand to what degree that would be the exception?

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But it DOES have to go somewhere new and connect to people on those grounds. .

 

I don't agree. If it's good and people like it, then that's all that matters isn't it?

 

 

" If the main connection is to older people who dig the influence, then that's not going to move the art forward. Blondie worked because the kids dug the new direction, not because older fans dug the influence.

 

Again I don't agree. I don't think the main connection is to older people. I think the connection is to people who like it and I certainly don't think young people sit around thinking "You know all this new alternative rock was influenced by 80's new wave and Uptown Funk sounds a lot like the Time. And even if they did I don't think they would care. I mean I never thought Blondie was influenced by the Shirelles nor would I have cared if I had known what the Shirelles sounded like. Maybe the art is not going to move forward anymore. Several people have mentioned how styles haven't really changed much since the nineties but that doesn't mean that there still can't be good music being made.

 

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Definitions can vary but to me "pop" music has to be broadly popular. If you're trying to write a pop song but it's not hitting the charts, then maybe it isn't pop. At least not today.

.

 

That's why I was careful to say top 40 type music in my previous post. Yeah most people probably think of current top 40 music when they think of pop. But pop can also be considered a broad genre of music. Some people consider Led Zeppelin and Rogers and Hammerstein as pop.

 

 

 

Yeah, that's pretty much my point. Every older musician I know likes those songs. Why? Because the "qualities" are the dated retro vibe they all have. "Get Lucky" was a Chic rip off. Williams and Thicke lost a suit because they ripped off Marvin Gaye too hard.

 

 

That may be why some people like them but I don't believe it's why I like them. And I don't believe it's why younger people like them either. Of course I recognize the retro influences but I like them because they have catchy melodies and good arrangements and they have a good groove.

 

 

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I want to point out what's probably obvious to most of us, but maybe not everyone. At any given point in musical Americana were crosscurrents and undercurrents. So at the same time the Bobbys were singing to vanilla middle America in the late '50s, John Coltrane, Monk, Miles and others were blowing musical doors down. Just not selling nearly as many records.

 

Jackson Pollick was dripping paintings from the mid-40's thru the mid-50's. At the same time Patti Page was selling millions.

Just saying the mass style is the main stream. Not the only stream. And while most of you probably know this stuff, I have just recently come across 2 mid-30's to mid-40's guys who'd never heard "I Am The Walrus". I'm fixing that.

 

And from 1951, with absolutely no backbeat, here's Duke Ellington with Al Hibbler on "Old Man River".

 

 

 

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The amount of revisionist history I hear from musicians amazes me, however. Any of us of grew up in the 60s and 70s knows that the cliché of the parent yelling at the kids to "turn down that noise!" was a cliché because it was true. We all lived through that. Yet everytime I bring it up, somebody always tries to tell me that "MY dad was different! He LOVED my Zeppelin albums. Told me how much they sounded like the blues music he grew up listening to!"

 

Even IF those stories were true, you should certainly be able to understand to what degree that would be the exception?

 

Well my parents absolutely hated my Led Zeppelin and Yes records. Actually broke a few of them for me.

 

But I also remember listening to pop radio with my mother in the early seventies and I remember her liking most of it. She liked songs by Barry White and Gladys Knight and America and the Bee Gee's and Elton John and Rod Stewart and Ricky Nelson and Simon and Garfunkel but she was definitely a casual listener and didn't go for that long haired acid rock stuff.

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I don't agree. If it's good and people like it, then that's all that matters isn't it?

 

 

To the degree we're talking about the future of pop music, then it's overall popularity is certainly a huge part of what matters.

 

 

Again I don't agree. I don't think the main connection is to older people. I think the connection is to people who like it and I certainly don't think young people sit around thinking "You know all this new alternative rock was influenced by 80's new wave and Uptown Funk sounds a lot like the Time. And even if they did I don't think they would care. I mean I never thought Blondie was influenced by the Shirelles nor would I have cared if I had known what the Shirelles sounded like. Maybe the art is not going to move forward anymore. Several people have mentioned how styles haven't really changed much since the nineties but that doesn't mean that there still can't be good music being made.

 

You're right with all of that. But you're also describing a dead-end for the art form. People still paint good portraits. But portrait-painting isn't the future of such art or where the money is to be made. But yes, a good portrait is still something worthwhile, in and of itself.

 

Is music that never sounds much different than it did in the 80s or 90s going to be viable once all of those of us who remember those genres first hand are dead and gone? That would be like people just having done nothing but compose classical music that sounds a lot like Beethoven for the last couple of hundred years. Nothing wrong with such music, of course, but is that really a good thing for the art form?

 

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That may be why some people like them but I don't believe it's why I like them. And I don't believe it's why younger people like them either. Of course I recognize the retro influences but I like them because they have catchy melodies and good arrangements and they have a good groove.

 

 

Younger people like them for probably many of the same reasons they like other current pop hits. Regardless of the retro influence.

 

But, with all due respect, if you think you like them because they have "catchy melodies, good arrangements and good grooves" but don't understand how that relates to your connection with the older music they are mimicking, then I think you're missing a lot of the psychology at play here.

 

Let me put it another way. Ask some kid why he likes "Uptown Funk" and he might say "catchy melody, good arrangement and good groove". Ask him why he also likes some other current pop tune that you don't like and you'll probably get the same answer.

 

But you don't agree and think only the first song has those things. Why would that be?

 

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Music never stands or fall with the public because of what might be called "just the music". All the big music movements create music that is nested inside a complex context of non-musical stuff. Beethoven was "revolutionary", Chopin was "nationalistic", Bach was Protestant, Dylan was a political protester (in spite of his protests to the contrary), the Beatles were at the apex of the complex swirl of cultural, economic, educational, idealist, and democratic change that for lack of a better term can just be called "the 60s". Like George said, they were just a band, but the world used them as an excuse to go crazy.

 

Kids don't like stuff just because it's catchy or danceable or noisy. Otherwise they'd all love Show Tunes, Polka, and Bagpipes. The music that really connects is plugged into a matrix of cultural trends, fetishes, myths, poses, identities, fashions, hopes, etc. It's the songwriter and performers who can intuit and amplify and to some extent, extend these things, create icons that glow with the contextual facets of the moment. It's way complex.

 

Once you get older, you just can't sniff the air and catch all the subtle aromas of the times like you did without thinking as an adolescent. The osmosis receptors close off, and they should. You've collected enough material to "art" with for the rest of a long, long life by the time you're 18 (if you're really the artistic type.) You can still learn, sure, expand your tastes, develop your skills and such - but it take a bit of commitment, even work at times. Most people don't want to work at their entertainment. We are already tired of work, yes.

 

The problem it seems to me is the pathetically narrow strata that popular music inhabits - a few years from the early edge of adolescence through, say, 25 or so. What are the rest of us, chopped liver? I may not be able to dance on the knife-edge of the current fashions and feelings, but I have an internal universe of life and life experience that I can exploit as long as I have a mind to. If more people made grown-up music, maybe grown-ups would continue to grow with music past their mid-20s.

 

nat whilk ii

Edited by nat whilk II
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Let me put it another way. Ask some kid why he likes "Uptown Funk" and he might say "catchy melody, good arrangement and good groove". Ask him why he also likes some other current pop tune that you don't like and you'll probably get the same answer.

 

But you don't agree and think only the first song has those things. Why would that be?

 

When I look back at the music that I have liked the most in my life I can recognize certain characteristics that they all share. If I had been born twenty or thirty years later or been raised in a different environment would I have liked a different set of characteristics? Who knows I guess it's possible but I seriously doubt it.

 

Why does anybody like the type of music they like? Why do some people like country but not hip-hop? Why do some people like heavy metal or opera or polka music? Why do some people have no preference at all? Could it be genetic? Is it mostly cultural?

 

I very much understand the concepts of cultural trends and generational identities. But for me and I think a lot of people that are into music there are universal qualities and characteristics that appeal to them that are beyond cultural trends and they may not know the answer is to why that that is.

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Is music that never sounds much different than it did in the 80s or 90s going to be viable once all of those of us who remember those genres first hand are dead and gone? That would be like people just having done nothing but compose classical music that sounds a lot like Beethoven for the last couple of hundred years. Nothing wrong with such music, of course, but is that really a good thing for the art form?

 

 

I think good music is viable regardless of style or genre or even what time period it's being listened to in. I'm not a classical aficionado so I really don't know if much music is still being composed that sounds a lot like Beethoven. I know that there is a lot of really good symphonic music still being composed and people still like symphonic music. I think what's good for any art form is for artists to create good art.

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If more people made grown-up music, maybe grown-ups would continue to grow with music past their mid-20s.

 

nat whilk ii

 

Who determines what grown up music is? I and many of my friends in their forties and fifties still like discovering new music by artists who are much younger than we are. Were the Beatles and the Stones grown-up music in the sixties or are they considered grown-up music now because their original fans are now grown-up?

 

But yeah I understand your point. You could argue that previous generations may have been more receptive to more "serious music".

And that is one of my beefs with some of the top 40 music that I don't particularly care for today. But I think the lack of "serious" pop music today is more a function of the modern music industry and not due to any actions on the part of the artists and listeners.

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Who determines what grown up music is? I and many of my friends in their forties and fifties still like discovering new music by artists who are much younger than we are. Were the Beatles and the Stones grown-up music in the sixties or are they considered grown-up music now because their original fans are now grown-up?

 

 

A good question. I would say "grown up music" at least in music with lyrics, would be music that deals with issues that deeply concern age groups beyond the mid-20s.

 

Just skim through the Beatles lyrical concerns, unscientifically. Early on there's falling in love, being p.o.'d at some girl, wanting some girl, wanting to dance, being lonely for a girl, warning a buddy that you're going to take that girl away if he doesn't treat her right. Then a few years later, there's John starting to talk about his own troubles in life, his issues with his dad, his mother, his feelings of insecurity, his difficulties dealing with commited relationships as a young man. And George, drunk with his first taste of Eastern religion and gurus and music. The band breaks up while all this self-development typical of 20-somethings is in midstream.

 

Paul moved on a bit, sang about the love of his life that he found, on into his 30s. That's growing up some. But John really tackled things - songs about his beautiful boy, his "arrival" at parenthood and leaving the craziness behind. He's not a pop star anymore, and he actually revels in that. George echoed that.

 

My vote for the ultimate "grown-up" work of art is Shakespeare's King Lear. Believe me, you can't really feel the dead-on impact of that play without having been a parent with grown-up children. It's a classic for the ages. It has something to say to all age groups, but it's particularly, intensely meaningful to the "elderly" who in the 16th century were the 40-somethings and beyond (if lucky.)

 

The criteria of "grownup" music or art is not concerned with good or bad. There's good young, good middle, good old. It may be a bit concerned with sophistication, as that hopefully increases with time. But it is very much concerned with being a part of people's actual lives as they age. Following along, expressing, teaching, supporting, enlightening, revealing, and yes, being subversive to the hardening influences that dog us all as we age.

 

I don't want to just keep being entertained by the fun stuff that entertained me a couple of decades ago. I want to keep enjoying that vibe, sure, but I want to move into the fullness of later stages and I want music that speak to the concerns of those particular stages, too. Damn it, I do. Old people live like monks or drunks for the most part. Pagggghhhh.

 

nat whilk ii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think good music is viable regardless of style or genre or even what time period it's being listened to in. I'm not a classical aficionado so I really don't know if much music is still being composed that sounds a lot like Beethoven. I know that there is a lot of really good symphonic music still being composed and people still like symphonic music. I think what's good for any art form is for artists to create good art.

 

Yeah, you missed my point, I think. Of course good music will have a certain viability regardless of style or genre. But the post I was responding you said "maybe the art isn't going to move forward anymore". If all we get from here on out is rehashes of old styles, there may be a degree of viability to it, but it will kill the art form eventually.

 

That's the problem with the state of the art right now, IMO. There's not that much in the way of anything new. We're in a stale period. Does that mean there still isn't the occasional good song or album here or there? Of course not. I hear new stuff I like almost every day. But we're overdue for a major cultural breakthrough, ala the rock revolution in the 1950s.

Edited by Vito Corleone

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When I look back at the music that I have liked the most in my life I can recognize certain characteristics that they all share. If I had been born twenty or thirty years later or been raised in a different environment would I have liked a different set of characteristics? Who knows I guess it's possible but I seriously doubt it.

 

Not saying this is exactly where your head is at (don't know you well enough) but far too often I see people (often musicians) who speak declaratively of the characteristics of certain types of music being "the best" and apparently it is just coincidence or good fortune on their part (I was so lucky to be able to grow up then!) that the music just happens to be the stuff they grew up with.

 

I just find it funny, is all. Especially coming from musicians who I would think should understand such things better.

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Not saying this is exactly where your head is at (don't know you well enough) but far too often I see people (often musicians) who speak declaratively of the characteristics of certain types of music being "the best" and apparently it is just coincidence or good fortune on their part (I was so lucky to be able to grow up then!) that the music just happens to be the stuff they grew up with.

 

I just find it funny, is all. Especially coming from musicians who I would think should understand such things better.

 

I've always been interested in why people like certain things and not other things.

 

When I was in high school I played music with friends who had similar tastes as myself but there were always enough differences to where we could argue about our favorite bands and genres and such. We might desperately want the other person to hear what it was that we liked about a certain song or artist but if the other person didn't get it then they just didn't get it.

 

I remember when Van Halen's first album came out one of my guitar playing friends went crazy over it and it totally altered the course of his musical pursuits. I on the other hand didn't really get it. I didn't dislike it per se but it was really nothing special to me.

 

I grew up in the south and was surrounded by people who liked country and blues music but I was never really a big fan of either yet another guitar playing friend of mine ended up going into more of a country/blues rock direction. All of us were the same age grew up in the same neighborhood and had similar backgrounds but we all had different musical tastes.

 

When I look back now I can kind of understand why I didn't respond to Van Halen or country rock like my friends did. I think some people are just hard wired to like certain musical characteristics more than others characteristics. Is it genes or environment or both. Who knows?

 

I have friends who have kids in high school. A couple of my friend's kids are all into hip-hop and rap. Look at their Facebook pages and they are all about rap music. Another friend's kids are totally into country and another of my friend's kids like alternative and classic rock. All of these kids grew up in similar environments but they all gravitated toward different musical genres. I think it's fascinating how that happens.

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So if you had to predict what the next revolution would involve' date=' what would it be?[/quote']

 

I think the next revelation wont likely be for us.

 

Maybe the next generation of genetically engineered cyborgs will have electroacoustic receptors that allow them to appreciate future music made up of ultrasonic and subsonic frequencies with swinging polyrhythmic sound wave pulses all in 3D living color.

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