Sunday, 1 May 2016

The demise of the music industry: my opinions on mainstream pop

I am not the one into delve in controversial topics like these as I have always hated confrontation and conflict (that why I’m a ‘Wimpy Kid’) and most certainly hate the dirty politics back home in Bangladesh where the two political parties are always at each other’s throats literally. The strike in Bangladesh carried out by one of the political parties in November had ruined my chance for a retake exam which had basically ruined my future prospects to a certain extent! But that is not what I’m here to talk about, today I want to talk about the demise of the music industry, and this is supported by fall in revenue by big labels scratching their heads due to the increased availability and reach of illegal streaming content.

The quality of music has dropped. I may get hate for this, and I know that people will have different tastes and will like different genres, but even a person who likes the same genre as me may think the music industry is flourishing – producing the best music he has ever heard and it is continuously getting better. But that’s not me. To clarify, I am going to talk about the mainstream music that usually topple the Billboard Top 10. And I must say, it is going downhill. I must admit, not ALL songs are bad, but the majority aren’t that good either. Now, as a reader, you may say that, “well Wimpy Kid just listen to what you like and stop complaining about it!” Trust me I wish I could, but I am not complaining about the state of the music industry just because of my own personal opinions, but that, in terms of social media portrayal, the ‘get rich or die trying mentality, and most and foremost the constant sexual appeasement for men, is what is horrifyingly wrong.

Firstly, I would like to talk about the quality of music. When I say quality, I mean the sophistication of lyrics, the songs having an ambiguous meaning so that we can interpret the meaning ourselves, and the level of thought, energy and ‘soul’ that goes into writing the music. And if you look at the newest top hits for the last maybe two years, you will find a steady trend that most music is not written by the artists who perform the songs themselves and that the main motif consists of ‘getting money, bitches, and sex’ in a nutshell. This is not my definition of music. Don’t get me wrong though, songs including these ideals can be good – but they hardly are. With a few exceptions in my eyes like Coldplay, Adele and maybe Charlie Puth, most of the songs that are topping the charts are electronic dance hits, which to be fair, is not proper ‘songs’ in my eyes at all. The importance of beat over melody has also reduced the quality of songs in general, as the greatest songs in general have had an equal footing in harmony, melody, rhythm and – in my mind the most important of them all – lyrics. Artists also probably do not have more ‘soul’ in their music due to hiring songwriters, their own personal talents may not be able to shine due to lyrics not being written from their own personal thoughts, which I think is what makes great music. Trending icons nowadays have very little to no personality and I think this is because of the desperate need for fame, but not for the reason of sharing one’s thoughts to the world. Record labels are also to blame as by trying to ‘play it safe’ they have reduced their credibility to nurture actual talent. This has all culminated into a huge mess and due to these qualitative factors about the industry not being taken into account, the financial side of things have suffered as well. I’m not saying that good music has to be at a certain sophisticated level, but a certain degree of thought and passion has to go into making songs. Catchy dance tunes are not going to cut it, and this can be seen even from a financial perspective:

Secondly, the degradation a lot of the artists in terms of posting racy music videos does definitely generate a lot more Youtube views than if they did something ‘normal’, but it has sparked the debate of whether or not the sexualization of the music videos have led to lower confidence and self-esteem in women, as these pop icons like Miley Cyrus and Rihanna for example, have helped accentuate this problem. In the UK, one in three women have been tend to be ‘groped’ due to the influence pop icons have in the media, and thus have not helped the situation at all. The racial stereotyping by colored artists like Rihanna has only promoted sexual harassment and making men think that ‘things are that easy’. From a business perspective, ‘sex sells’ but the overall impact on society has to be weighed by the producers as well, as these icons also have a responsibility to society, and I don’t mean a ‘corporate social responsibility’.

Frank Zappa has explained in very candid fashion, from an interview from the ‘80s:

So what makes great music? I don’t have the answer, but people who have answered this question in their own ways are artists like the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Eminem ,and some contemporary artists such as Coldplay, Adele to name a new (of my favorites). These artists or bands have taken music to a whole new level and some of the aforementioned have shattered records and established themselves in their own genres due to being modestly candid about the opinions they share in their songs, because after all, that is what music should be about.

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