By Natalie Gadeikis, Staff Writer
So you’ve managed to produce an unoriginal composition consisting of cliche, catchy trap beats, and auto-tuned vocals with nearly incomprehensible lyrics. Congratulations! Not only have you won the hearts of many young-folk, but you have also earned the title of a “musician.”
If you’re concerned about making it to the top of the charts these days, fear not, for it doesn’t demand much talent or effort. Since the 1950s, trends in musical compositions have drastically evolved. Musicians in the past used a plethora of instrumental backgrounds, complex chord structures, and intelligent lyrical content within their music, compared to the modern musicians of today using sampled tracks, drum machines, and other oversimplified, repetitive, and artificial sounds. The majority of what is liked and played on the radio today does not require any raw talent, application, or originality. To put it simply, our society’s standard of “great music” has dropped down to devastatingly low levels.
According to the Spanish National Research Council, the timbre (the depth, variety, quality, and richness of sound) in songs has dropped drastically in all genres of music from 1955 to 2010. Timbral variety peaked in the 1960s and has been steadily declining over the years. Editing music eliminates its dynamic range and variety, thus reducing the quality of the sound. This can make instruments sound less punchy and vibrant, and more robotic. Modern pop music uses the same combination of “instruments” (rather, computer software) which completely strips not only the individuality and originality out of the music, but also the talent, raw emotion, and skill required to construct a brilliant piece of music.
“A Day In The Life” (1967), which is considered the greatest song made by The Beatles (According to Rolling Stone), was unlike any other musical composition during its time. The piece included a vast array of over 23 instruments. When we compare that musical masterpiece to a song that was created in modern time (and recorded in a mere 20 minutes) “Mo Bamba”, by Sheck Wes, features a sampled track created by a different producer, a 4-note looped keyboard melody, overpowering distorted bass, and a substandard drum pattern, all produced by computer software.The song is a viral hit, and it is nothing more than pathetic.
The reason why our generation relishes in the wretched excuse of what is called “modern music” may be caused by “the mere exposure effect,” which is a physiological phenomenon by which people develop a preference for things they see and hear often. The more we hear the same sounds, the more we like them. We hear these radio hits everywhere, and it’s inescapable. Whether we’re in the grocery store, the dentist’s office, or (God forbid) the DMV, we are bound to listen to the same composition over and over again, until we develop a tolerance for it, consider it “catchy”, and have the melody ingrained in our minds for weeks.
Lyrical intelligence is nearly non-existent in many modern compositions, which makes songs with overly repetitive lyrics as seen in “Baby” by Justin Bieber, or “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé, so memorable.
Most popular musicians don’t write their own musical compositions or lyrics. While there are still musicians that write their own complex compositions, they are often difficult to find, as they won’t likely be on the top charts. The music industry makes profit off of modern, dumbed-down pop music that the majority like. Modern music is factory-produced, stolen, and spat out again in a new, popular pop song. Originality in music is risky, as it might not make profit if the people don’t like it.
People who enjoy modern pop more than likely have short attention spans and lack the appreciation and patience for music that is more complex in its form. Pop sells, and being different in the industry is a financial risk. However, music is an art form, an expression of one’s self, and it should not be stripped of its creativity and originality. Unfortunately, modern music is designed to sell, not to inspire. It is up to our generation to pave the way.