The always-interesting Ronan Guilfoye has a great anti-pop music screed up today over at his site, Mostly Music. The gist:
This music… this sticky treacly manufactured international pop goo, whose sticky effusions have polluted the entire planet, springs from no culture other than money. It represents only the international corporate business behemoth that has taken the name ‘music’ into its title, despite having no interest in the concept of what music really is. It is unprecedented in human musical history – a music without any culture. A music without any message. And ultimately a music without any true humanity.
Tell us what you really think, Ronan!
Seriously, though–although I have a great fondness for this kind of crotchetiness, and I don’t like most of the music he’s talking about either, I have three objections to this critique:
- This stuff is immensely popular and important to millions of (mostly) young people and serves as the anthems of their generation the same way that the popular music of your generation or mine did for us. YES, it’s shoved down their throats by multimedia conglomerates, but the fact is that people have access to a whole world of music, and a great plurality if not majority of them are choosing to listen to this, because it resonates with them. To deny the music’s humanity is to deny theirs, I think. And I would say there are millions of fully human, vibrant, intelligent young people in the world who nonetheless have crappy taste in music. (If you disagree, read this guy’s blog for a while. He writes incredibly intelligently about what does not, to my untrained ears, seem to be especially intelligent music. But that makes me think twice about writing it off!)
- I’m pretty sure the major purveyors of music, art, and literature throughout history have pretty much never cared about quality as much as they have about capital (at least since the end of the patronage system). Singling out today’s pablum for special condemnation smacks of end-times-ism.
- In spite of the incredibly annoying production values of most of today’s top 40, there are still plenty of catchy tunes out there being written by actual human beings. It makes me angry sometimes, since they’re so annoying, but I defy you to not get something like this stuck in your head. (And it even has a repeating modulation! Suck it, Jerome Kern!)
All that said, I really do think Auto-tune is going to ruin peoples’ ears for real singing, and I do think the globalization of pop is going to continue to weaken a lot of regional music (as globalization has in every other aspect of culture, as inexorable as that is).
Thinking about all this did make me think of my dad, however, who likes to respond to any overheard pop, hiphop, etc. by saying, “they’ve finally come up with music for people who don’t like music.” This from a guy who listens to Schoenberg!