Our parents all do it. Even some of our hipster peers are guilty of it.
So many people say some version of the following comment when the topic of popular music comes up in conversation:
"Music just ain't what it used to be."
This is one of my favorite arguments to have. As someone that deeply enjoys and is emotionally impacted by all styles of music spanning decades of history, I like to think my stance is worthy of opened ears.
My thoughts on the topic are quite simple.
The best music in history is being created every day. It's just not being evenly distributed yet.
I'll let that sink in and be interpreted for a minute.
Today suffers from a great deal of misfortune. We have allowed technology to take over the majority of the music creation process - at least in the popular music category. Why did we allow this to happen? Well, that part is really a no-brainer. It's all about the automation of business, and producers are merely doing more with less today. Just like in any business operation, if you can create value while expending less effort, you're ROI skyrockets.
The result is usually a copy/paste of a few simple melodies thrown together to manufacture the catchiest track possible. It's efficiency at its finest.
But that's the argument I have to go against. And I acknowledge that when you look solely at pop music versus what we considered pop music years ago, we have devolved in terms of talent and creativity.
But, what about every other piece of music being created today? What about the gems you aren't exposed to every day?
There in lies the heart of my argument. It's the evolved musician that contributes to what the pioneers before him established. It's the undeniable ability to master instruments that only can be achieved through hours of practice every day. These people are out there. You just don't hear them on the radio anymore.
Through popular music's increase in simplification, society showed an influx of demand for it's more understandable and relatable melodies and lyrics, coupled with infectious dance beats. Then, branding took over. Artists could do no wrong with this recipe as long as they had the devoted fans to eat it up song after song.
Unfortunately, this creates less demand for more advanced music. If the masses are tuning into the aforementioned, there is no way to mass distribute the higher quality music of today.
We're left on our own. We are forced to go out and find the superior music that's being recorded.
But the argument doesn't stop there. There are many paths I can go down from here. It starts with the evolution of learning and a human's ability to find better ways to learn and master their crafts.
I don't think many people would argue with the fact that professional sports have gotten more competitive than ever. It's difficult to compare directly, but it's hard to deny that the median skill level of the players have elevated significantly over the years.
This same concept can be applied to musicianship. If we are all better at our instruments, we theoretically should have become better at songwriting as well. But there's a divergence of thought when you stroll down this path. It becomes more of a "what makes a musician good" debate. Some might claim it's the ability to play an instrument while others would hang their hats on songwriting skills.
But I'll digress on that notion with a personal acknowledgement that both have elevated.
Now, even if you accept the constructs of my argument, you might ask for examples. And that's fair enough. I have them, but I'd hate to use this rant as a form of promotion for any artists. After all, there are simply too many of them - and I don't like to pick favorites.
However, I urge you to listen to new jazz artists. I welcome you to hear the artistry being presented in hip-hop. I encourage you to delve into the many new and previously unfounded categories of music that are being invented today.
The above notion alone fuels the argument that we are harnessing our advancements in technology to do things that we've never done before. Just because you don't get it, or it's not what you're used to listening to, doesn't mean it's inferior. In fact, it could very much mean the opposite.
Consider this an open invitation to empty your mind of doubt and expand your horizons to the new musical talents popping up all around you. And it's all happening at a higher rate than ever before in the history of music. I guess we're more efficient in that way too.