I submit to you this: a brief rant about the sorry state of modern popular music.
Yes, I know. This isn’t new. People have been ranting about the decline of music ever since the autotune made its way into just about every damn song on the radio. But I’m not talking about the musical quality of the industry today. In fact, I’d say from a production standpoint, music is about the same as it’s been for the past 30 years. A good hook is still important, and dance music is still as much of a moneymaker as it always was. It’s not hard to find a beautiful piano melody or a rousing orchestra in today’s songs, and the phat beats are still around.
The problem I have is not with the melodies. It’s the lyrics. Our lyrics mean nothing. Our songs do not sing the body electric. The words from our bards are shallow and selfish. No one on the radio or on TV is singing anything that matters.
Take for example, the hot songs out right now. There’s Rihanna’s “We Found Love”, which is a great tune but the lyrics are…well…crap. #2 on the Billboard Chart is “Sexy and I Know It”, which is most notable for being a song by a band called LMFAO (a prime example of how far we’ve fallen). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun song, but completely meaningless.
The only recently-released songs in the Billboard Top 20 that I’d say actually have lyrical value are Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain”. They’re both poetic, but they’re love songs, and as much as we all love to sing about love lost or unrequited, it’s not a profound topic.
There are no songs about social change. There are no songs about maturing. There are no songs about learning a life lesson. Hip-hop used to mean something. It used to have a social slant with clever lyrics designed to get people to think about what they were doing and where they were going. Gone are the days of De La Soul and Arrested Development. Say hello to Lil’ Jon and Drake.
Alternative rock used to be profound. Nirvana changed the game. Pearl Jam was the voice of a generation trying to reconcile suburbia with rebellion and a world at constant war. Where are our anti-war songs now?
Of course, I’m sure many of you are thinking that these kinds songs do exist, they’re just not in the mainstream. It’s all indie. And you’re absolutely right, and that’s my point. In the past it wasn’t hard to find meaningful tunes around. They may not have been Billboard Top 20 material, but they were around, the big labels supported them, and they got radio and video play (the only reason I discovered Arrested Development was VH1 played them constantly back in the day). Now, there’s no social message to be found in the mass media.
And the saddest part of all? Bands that used to have a message are now completely and utterly moronic. The Black Eyed Peas broke out into the mainstream with “Where Is the Love?”, a meaningful song with an equally meaningful video that posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?”. Now, B.E.P. writes the stupidest songs in the world, sugar-coated with some well-crafted beats. But, for a moment, let’s take a walk down memory lane, and remember the good old days when mainstream artists still produced art. It wasn’t that long ago