Music, lyrics, and the death of pop


Amanda Keefe is a senior journalism major and Managing Editor for The Journal.

I’m not a music critic, nor am I a music expert. I am, however, hopelessly in love with it. But, I’m terribly concerned.
There was a time when musicians, actual musicians, had actual talent. There was a time when artists had something deeper to offer, whether it was a universal message or a universal feeling.
Lyrics were carefully considered and rhythms were carefully calculated. Dylan was a poet, Hendrix was a genius, Clapton was a soul man. Their music moved us. Their music connected us. Their music reminded us of the raw, powerful force behind our most basic emotions.
Those days are over. These days Ke$ha, resident shallow party-girl who, before she leaves for the day, “brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack,” is serving as a role-model for the pre-teen listeners.
We have Justin Bieber, a 16-year-old who hasn’t hit puberty and whose singing is not unlike that of a little girl’s. Due to his age, one could infer that he’s probably never actually been in love, let alone had a chance to call a girl “Baby,” despite it being the title of one of his hit singles. So, of course, he’s defaulted to singing incredibly predictable lyrics set to equally predictable beats.
And of course, we mustn’t leave out Taylor Swift, the queen of crappy love songs. Trite doesn’t even begin to describe her lyrics and, her mediocre voice. I’d also like to point out that she clearly doesn’t know her Shakespeare. In her hit “Love Story,” she compares herself and a boy to Juliet and Romeo, but I guess no one ever told her they die in the end. The final lyrics to “Love Story” are “…Marry me Juliet / You’ll never have to be alone / I love you and that’s all I really know / I talked to your dad, go pick out a white dress / It’s a love story baby, just say yes.”
Need I say more?
Collectively, these three artists (and many others, mind you) fall into what I like to call, “Mega Stars Who Shouldn’t Be.”
Just a level below these “mega stars” is the collection of music we’ll call, “All This Shit Sounds the Same.”
Readers, I know you know what I’m talking about — R&B ballads or pop tunes that sound disturbingly similar to the ones before them. Lots of high-pitched males who throw in plenty of vibrato and “ooh girl’s” make up the majority of this group. I consider this music a time-filler, played in between the really big hit songs that listeners care more about.
It all sounds the same — even the commercials don’t break up the monotony of the same half-assed dance/techno beats, the same whiny vibrato and the same absurd lyrics. Some artists who fall into this category, just to name a few, include: Bruno Mars, B.o.B., Mike Posner and Taio Cruz.
Now here’s where I confess. I’ll admit, I’ve downloaded my share of some of these trite, empty pop hits. Why? Because radio people are clever bastards. They figure if they can play the same song on loop every hour, on the hour, that listeners will eventually grow to know every word.
Once we can sing along to a song without missing a word, we begin thinking we like it. If this hasn’t happened to you, you’re not listening to the radio enough, which is probably a good thing.
It may not be a great excuse, but it’s the only one I’ve got. I’m still annoyed and bored by the music of today, but there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Great music still exists in the world. Bands like The Black Keys are reviving rock blues (download “When the Lights Go Out” and learn a thing or two), Amy Winehouse (as crack-whoreish as she may be) has the voice of a battered goddess who tears through a listener’s every emotion, and the one-man band Iron & Wine introduces what can only be described as beautiful folk-rock serenades.
Though the music of yesteryear has come and gone, it’s still around for us to enjoy any time. It’s not as if we’ve lost a chapter, we’ve just started a new one, as shitty as it might be.
All we can do is seek out the buried gems amidst a vast sea of turds.

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