I have been thinking about this a lot recently.
Music is undoubtedly a topic of subjectivity and arbitrary viewpoints, tastes differ as do personalities and the more you can accept and respect other people’s tastes, the better.
That being said, it’s fun to spark a heated debate now and again and I’d like to touch upon something that I deeply think about when it comes to the music that I really dislike.
Music is hard to write and talk about without getting tangled in knots, but if I am able to express what I don’t like about certain music it puts me in a position to express my critique or opinion in a way that is informed and respectable.
I feel it’s important to do, because one of my biggest issues with music at the moment is the way it does not drive the culture anymore. I have found myself tuning out of so much music that is plugged my way and having to work hard to find music I like and I want to find out why that is.
Here are some general things I have managed to pinpoint that do not sit well with me.
Music being used as a means to tell music theory
This is a byproduct of the Youtube Musical star culture which I ignore because I get no joy whatsoever from using music as a means to fawn over music theory. I study music theory relentlessly and am fascinated by its use in music of all varieties but when the theory sounds like it supersedes the music itself, it makes me really uncomfortable. There is some music that labours on the theory side so much that it completely supersedes the music and I can’t help but find that problematic.
Music that is illiterate
I sometimes read pop lyrics and am sometimes taken aback by how bad some of the language is. Lyrics reduced to text speak, non-sensical metaphors or similes and things that are just grammatically wrong. Lyrics don’t have to reach the literary standards of Yeats or Keats but come on, the least you can do is make some actual sense with some degree of sophistication.
Innocuousness or Vapidness
This rife in modern day releases. Any artist who gains traction and picked up by labels or corporate sponsors is so afraid of speaking out against something that their music becomes reduced to something merely passive and with little meaning.
So much mainstream music that is released is completely and utterly vapid, designed to be here today and then gone tomorrow.
On the contrary a lot of my favourite music has a very focused viewpoint be it deeply personal yet empathetic or standing up for what you believe in. Kendrick Lamar is probably one of the best examples of artists who does this really well. He’s managed to become hugely successful without compromising himself with his solo work. In such an unfair and divided world, we need people to stand up to oppressors and not many musicians of today do this unfortunately.
Self above anyone else
We can thank the internet once again for amplifying this juggernaut of nonsense. Music appears to be used by some as a tool to elevate one’s ego or narcissism and not much else. The music becomes just a byproduct of celebrity culture where the idea is often sold that the most important thing is to be famous and seen as successful.
I sometimes check in with the charts and at one point was really worried about what it was that kids were exactly listening to. At one point, the charts were dominated by artists who were taking xanax and singing about it in their works; too many have lost their lives prematurely from messing with such things. I listen to some of the darkest music out there and love bands like Swans, NIN and Clipping. but there’s a difference between exploring horrifying topics in interesting ways and outright glorification of dangerous lifestyle choices.
Lazy or uninspired production choices
There is no barrier to producing music these days, but as a result the long tail of modern day music production is pretty mediocre. Over-reliance on sample libraries, loops, already sourced and preset sounds, triggers (give me some real drum kit sounds please!!!) are all things that turn off my ear because of the lack of originality. It is a long and significantly tougher road to go down to create your own sounds, hone in on the details and find your individual aesthetic, but it is much more worthwhile.
Lack of dynamics
The digital age brought the loudness wars and over-compression. Things did gradually get better but I would argue that there is still so much music that completely disregards dynamic quality to ensure the audio gets into your face in a rather obnoxious way.
I’ve been reading Simon Reynold’s book and since the 2000s music has struggled to come up with its own identity and feel. Instead we have seen new artists openly wearing the influence of the latter 20th century decades on their sleeves. The result is music that doesn’t offer much new. Rock music has become the new classic music in many ways and new artists have sometimes deliberately just recycled the acts of the 70s or 80s and built their act entirely on that. The overbearing nostalgia in my opinion is a bit boring and I am keen to hear artists willing to try different things and embrace the future a bit more.
There are quite a few issues I have managed to raise that don’t sit well with me, there is a lot of music I absolutely love, and in another article, I’ll follow up with what it is I tend to like when it comes to music.
What are your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with me? Feel free to leave a comment below because I love talking about this kind of stuff!
Thanks as always for reading.