We’ve all flipped on our car stereo just to be plagued by that annoying mid-’90s, Hootie-or-the-something song that completely lost its meaning 14 years ago after being played over and over into oblivion. And how about the movie ballads like Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” from the “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” that you can’t get out of your head, or Celine Dion’s overly enthusiastic “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie that — let’s face it — really needs no mention. Most of us love these songs, but somewhere in the repetitiveness of it all, we start to become agitated, and the music begins to lose its glamour and authentication. It is almost as though you can see every nickel and dime being squeezed out of the artistry.
Great artists under the control of top record companies pump out these ditties only to be turned over to the mercy of advertisers hoping you will love the song in their commercial just as much as their Kia Sorrento. Far too often, artists simply don’t get the chance to really shine the way they wanted.
In the midst of it all, pop music is becoming more of an advertiser’s playground than a source of true talent. Popular TV talent shows such as “American Idol” and “The X Factor” create a different battleground for today’s artists. In some ways, these shows make it easy to get noticed, but also much harder with the added pressure of being rejected on national television. Dave Grohl, front-man of The Foo Fighters, is one of many who feel that the old-fashioned way of making a name for yourself was superior.
In the grand scheme of things, it all goes back to how you identify someone as an artist. Is an artist someone who simply sings songs, or is an artist one who not only sings but also creates? That is not to say that an “American Idol” contestant does not have the ability to create, but rather that the record label may not let them. In a 2013 interview with Howard Stern, Lady Gaga stated, “Artists were not afraid to be themselves and weren’t controlled by the music industry or the radio format. I mean, that makes me really crazy when I see that now. As an artist all you really have is your voice.”
Lady Gaga, like Grohl, writes her own music. In fact, she has been credited for writing music for other pop stars such as Britney Spears and the Pussy Cat Dolls. Could this mean that stars like Britney Spears are not really artists but rather just performers? With new editing technology to enhance audio quality such as auto-tune, are we really hearing the true voice of a phenomenal artist or just a phony impersonator with a pretty face and dance moves?
One thing is for sure: Artists today are not what they once were. Recorded music today is flawless and in most cases stripped of unique instrumental flaws. Jack White of The White Stripes, in defense of analog recording, explains,”Mechanics are always going to provide inherent little flaws and tiny little specks and hisses that will add to the idea of something beautiful, something romantic. Perfection, making things perfectly in time and perfectly free of extraneous noise, is not something to aspire to! Why would anyone to aspire to such a thing?”
Today’s pop music is not awful. Well, maybe some of it is, but we all have to admit that we get these catchy songs in our head from time to time, we find ourselves turning up the radio when they come on, and some of them even remind us of moments in our lives that meant the most. But please remember the ones who started it all. Remember the ones who made music when imperfection was embraced, voices were authentic, and money and advertising had not yet taken control of an art.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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