Entertainment

There’s something very, very wrong with today’s music. It just might not be so good. – Nation

On warm summer nights, the park across the street from my house is packed with people playing dribble football, playing volleyball, or participating in the lively games of Spikeball.

Nearly all of them will play music through Bluetooth speakers, usually from the Spotify Top 100. And if I’m being honest, none of these tracks are good. All I hear are mumbled lyrics rendered with ease (well, except for the abuse of AutoTune) and beats so quantized that they can be substituted for an atomic clock.

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Praise – and a plea – better music

I just reread that last sentence. Harsh content from someone who doesn’t understand yoof’s music these days? Or am I scratching the surface of a problem facing the recorded music industry?

Consider the following:

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  • Kate Bush’s 1985 song Run up that hill reached number one on the UK singles chart and has reached the top 5 in other countries around the world. Love at first sightThe album produced a hit, peaking at #8 on the Canadian charts earlier this summer.
  • Metallica’s 1986 Track Puppet Master was so motivated by its appearance in Strange things that it is currently in the Top 40. This 8-minute metal song is competing for attention with the latest song from Lizzo, Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Cardi B.
  • Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumor is one of the best selling albums of the year to date. It ranks ninth in the US Rumor also one of the best selling vinyl albums of the year so far.
  • The sex pistols’ God save the queen from 1977 is the best-selling vinyl single of 2022. Going further down the list you’ll find that Clash’s Rock the Casbah (1982) was the eighth best-selling vinyl record.)
  • Last week, The Queen’s Best Movie (1981) has just become the best-selling record of all time in the UK with 7 million copies sold over 1,000 weeks on the UK charts. Last week, it came in at number 24 in Canada, a few places ahead of Yer’s favoriteTragically Hip’s best collection of songs.

Old music is sure to pop up this summer, and much of this interest is fueled not by nostalgic old people but by kids playing Spikeball on the street.

Luminate, a company that tracks music consumption for the record industry, noted in its mid-year report that “current” music (defined by the industry as less than 18 months old) not only lose market share. It became statistically less common in all demographic groups. Looking at the US, the so-called “Total Album Sales” metric of “current music” fell 1.4% in the first half of 2022 from a year ago. Meanwhile, the music “Catalog” – a document more than 18 months old – increased 14%.

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We can go even deeper. The market share of “Catalog” music in the US is 72% so far this year with “Current” music at 27.6%. That’s a 3% drop in market share.

In other words, “Now” music is gradually becoming less and less popular when measured by the number of streams and sales. Anything released today just doesn’t resonate with the public the way it did in the past. Instead, people are showing a preference for listening to older music.

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This obviously requires some unpacking. Why is “Now” music not resonating? What is the increase in interest in older material?

Some will point to a lack of so-called “high-impact” new releases in 2022. For example, if Taylor Swift or Adele have new records, these numbers could be different. But right now, only 102 albums have debuted in this year’s Billboard Top 100 (the definition of “impact”) compared to 126 last year. This may be related to Music Business Worldwide calculations showing that the 10 most popular tracks on streaming services have been listened to. less than a billion times than them for about the same time in 2019. Both show a difference to what is being offered as new today.

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But maybe, just maybe, the answer lies in art and creativity. In recent weeks, many posts have appeared lamenting the quality of today’s music. Here is an example.

Others have weighed in, complaining that too many coveted stars these days are simply celebrities making music with laptops. Old music recorded in old-fashioned studios with real instruments sounds richer and more enjoyable. Too many songs is the quick way: get rid of them, squeeze everything you can to get rid of the tunes, and then forget about them. (A critic, pointing to how The Beatles’ Yesterday has been covered more than 3,000 times, ask how many covers of Cardi B’s WAP Future. He has a point.)

More Hypothesis: Lack of authentic storytellers in the veins of Carole King or Jackson Browne. Musicians buy the beat available online, then sing/rap on top and then publish the results. Desire to be famous rather than pay their apprenticeship fees. (Blame all the talent shows on television for that.) Record labels fail to nurture and develop artists, resulting in short careers of only one or two songs. There is a lack of people willing to pursue true mastery of an instrument with years of practice. So much perfection in the recording process, an obsession that tears away all the humanity and soul of a song. (Compare anything from today’s top 10 to a Motown hit and the difference becomes clear.) Formula composing algorithms (I’m looking at you, Max Martin.)

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I’m not done. Thanks to technology, many artists today are having hit songs without even playing a live performance. That means they never have to sweat in front of strangers on long trips. Experience the training that is essential to becoming a better musician. You need that experience if you’re not only competing with the music of your heroes on the world stage, but also with hero ‘hero’ hero.

And there are still many things to consider. Take your mind back to 1992. Music was thirty years old then to listen old. Not only is modern pop still evolving, but we’ve barely started using things like electric guitars and proper amps. The effects pedal hasn’t been invented yet, nor is there a synthesizer. Recording studios were rudimentary by today, only capable of producing material in mono. But then starting around 1969, the sound quality of the recordings reached new levels. A song recorded in 1972 sounds as good as a song recorded this year. (In fact, you could argue that due to overproduction, digital technology, and too much compression, older recordings will sound better than we have today.)

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6 reasons why old music is threatening the music of today and the future

Now let me turn things around. This is happening because young people today – and remember that youth is always the driving force of what’s happening in music – recognize bad music when they hear it. They are smarter than to fall for what passes like today’s hit music.

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Thanks to streaming and smartphones, we have access to somewhere north of 80 million songs. Within seconds, we can call out almost any song recorded in human history. Why don’t you source the best of the best of the best?

Unlike previous generations, today’s music fans have a much higher taste in music. If you have a teen, ask them to show you the last 25 songs they streamed on their phone. I bet you’ll find everything from Drake to AC/DC to Matthew Wilder (specifically a song from the 1980s that became a weird TikTok phenomenon). To them, all they care about is good songs, regardless of genre or era. Good for health.

In other words, the kids are fine. It’s the people who run the star-making machine behind the popular song isn’t it.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Continuous History of New Music Podcasts now on Apple Podcasts or Google Play

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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