Thursday, July 21, 2005

Some Music Lasts Forever; Some shouldn't Last 10 Minutes

I don’t listen to radio very often. About the only time I listen to it is when my daughter turns it on in the car when she’s riding with me.

The reason I seldom listen to radio is because most of the stuff they play on it is pure garbage. There are a few decent tunes, but it’s like trying to dig through a pile of trash to find a quarter; it’s just not worth it.

Even though I don’t listen to much radio, I do listen to music a lot. Most of my music is downloaded from the Internet, so I can buy only the tracks off an album that I really like.

When it comes to music I have my own bias. Sometimes, you just know when you like a song, but don’t really know why. Most often, you don’t care to analyze why – if you like it, you like it.

However, with all due respect for their intelligence, I’m fairly certain that many teenagers decide what music is good by its popularity. It’s another “chicken-and-egg” conundrum. Is the music popular because it is good, or is it perceived as being good because the recording industry and radio stations have made it popular?

Granted, there is a lot of variety within popular music. Some of it is truly original, artful, and produced with talent and passion. Most of it, however, was poured straight from the rim of a mass-produced tin can.

Country music is going strong right now, even among young people. When I was in high school, I listened to Country, but it wasn’t “cool.” I had to listen to it clandestinely.

My daughter, who was once an avid country music fan, doesn’t listen to it much anymore. She had heard enough of it after she first heard the song, “Drugs or Jesus.”

And I stopped listening to the genre years ago. The domain of the once-great Don Williams, Glen Campbell, and Marty Robbins has become pathetic in its simplicity and lack of any form of artistic expression, except for the obligatory pronounced Texas drawl. It’s trite and humdrum.

And today’s Pop music isn’t any better. Most of it is overly simple and lacking in originality. A few Pop stars, such as Avril Lavigne and Mandy Moore, are talented and original, but they are the exceptions.

I also love the more mature music of Diana Krall and Norah Jones. But the radio airwaves don’t carry much of that kind of art. They carry hype. Hype is what sells and it’s what draws the younger crowd, the ones who buy most music, to the radio.

Physical appearance is also a bigger factor. How else could a young girl named Britney, who has a voice like Bart Simpson, make it to the top of the music charts? It certainly can’t be her musical talent.

One criterion I use to judge whether a piece of music is really good is its longevity. If it’s a song that is truly good, it will last forever.

Forty years ago, the Beatles recorded a song called “Yesterday.” It has become one of the most-played Pop songs in all history. The Eagle’s “Desperado” is another fine example of a song that will last forever.

About 300 years ago a man named Johann Pachelbel wrote a piece of music that he simply called “Canon in D Major.” Today Pachelbel’s Canon is one of the most often played pieces of music from any generation.

People can listen to talentless hype if they desire. But it is hard to argue with the longevity and appeal these artful tunes possess. It took real talent to create them.

It is difficult to imagine any one of the songs by Britney Spears, 50 Cent, Alan Jackson, or any Rap artist known to man keeping their popularity for 30 years, let alone 300.

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