Today I’d like to chat about why so much modern popular music sucks so bad. (Yeah, I know. Should have been ‘badly’. I don’t care.)
I’m going to try to not be boring, but I realize that not everyone shares my particular obsession with music.
First of all, modern music isn’t recorded in the Sixties (which lasted until about 1976), and that’s three strikes right there.
During the Sixties, the various popular musical genres were tossed into a blender which was then set on ‘Shred’. Musicians assumed control of their product in a way that hadn’t been seen before. Radio stations weren’t trapped in the rigid formats that they now are, and music could easily cross boundaries that are now almost impenetrable, resulting in an explosion of hybrid vigor that is rare today.
There are a myriad of examples of this, but the one that comes to my mind immediately is the Byrds. Their ‘Eight Miles High’ is one of the two or three most intensely psychedelic songs ever recorded, but they also made a classic country album when they cut ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’. Check out this performance of ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’, from that album. It’s transcendental. (And Earl Scruggs on banjo proves that this is a pure country song.)
Blues, returned to
Increasingly, as the record labels conglomerated and merged, the bean-counters took control and the focus shifted to making money more greedily than ever, so that music became even more product than art. Bands no longer get a chance to learn their craft and build a fan base. They better hit a home run within their first few albums, or they’re out of the game.
As the Sixties drew to a close, in 1976, musicians began to once again lose control of their music. Bad things happened.
Along came Pro Tools, and, shortly thereafter AutoTune, and it became possible to hone and rearrange and retune and clean up songs, down to the millisecond level, until all the breath and life and glorious imperfection has been wrung from them.
Back in prehistoric times, when vinyl records roamed the earth, there was a limit on how loud they could be at any given place on the volume slider. Too loud, especially in the bass area, and the grooves in the record would be so deep that the needle would bounce out of them. The rise of CDs and digital music in general ended that limit.
These factors all converged, and the Loudness Wars started.